UN calls for truce as innocents die in Israeli blitz
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday warned that the Israeli-Palestinian war could spill into the Middle East and called on both sides to agree a ceasefire.
And Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour appealed to the Security Council "to stop the bleeding" and revive the Palestinians' "dying hopes" for an end to the conflict and for peace with freedom.
"I speak on behalf of the suffering and grieving Palestinian people, who are enduring yet another barrage of death, destruction, trauma and terror," he said.
Israel launched the new offensive on Tuesday to end rocket fire from Gaza.
The offensive has set off the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since an eight-day battle in November 2012.
Mr Ban said: "It is unacceptable for citizens on both sides to permanently live in fear of the next aerial attack."
The UN chief said the threat of an Israeli ground offensive and "an all-out escalation" was preventable only if Hamas stops firing rockets.
He called for "bold thinking and creative ideas" and urged the world to accelerate efforts to immediately end the violence.
"Now is not a time for further incitement or vengeance," he said. "Any further spiral of violence could have alarming unforeseen consequences.
"Once again, Palestinian civilians are caught between Hamas' irresponsibility and Israel's tough response."
He urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in phone conversations "to exercise maximum restraint, show statesmanship and to weigh the risks of further escalation".
Mr Mansour rejected Israel's "audacious claims" that Palestinians are being used as human shields "while it knowingly and intentionally strikes at densely populated civilian areas".
Israel's ambassador played a 15-second siren that warns Israelis to run to bomb shelters to escape rocket attacks.
Palestinians reported the strikes hit a home and a beach cafe, raising the total number of people killed this week to at least 85.
The Health Ministry in Gaza reported 22 deaths yesterday. It said about half were women and children.
Israel has mobilised 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza.