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UN chief's hope over Gaza fighting

The UN secretary-general says it is his "hope and belief" that his emergency mission to the Middle East will lead to an end to the fighting between Hamas and Israel "in the very near future".

Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council by videoconference from the West Bank city of Ramallah that he could not publicly reveal details of talks "at this highly sensitive moment".

"Suffice it to say it is my hope and belief that these talks will lead to results and an end to the fighting in the very near future," he said.

As Mr Ban started to address the council a siren could be heard in the background.

The UN chief has also visited Qatar, Kuwait, Cairo and Jerusalem in his bid to end the conflict.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the international community must hold Hamas accountable for rejecting multiple cease-fire offers and continuing its attacks against Israeli civilians.

Mr Netanyahu said Hamas is "like al-Qaida" and it must be dealt with accordingly.

Overnight, Israel bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hamas military chief, a Gaza police official said.

The Israel military announced earlier that two more soldiers had died - one from sniper fire yesterday and one from as yet unexplained causes - bringing the military death toll to 27.

It is the highest number of Israeli military fatalities for any campaign since the 2006 Lebanon war. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed in the latest conflict.

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