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U.N. Security Council calls for Gaza ceasefire

The Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour said the Security Council urged for an ‘immediate’ ceasefire as death toll reached 135

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The U.N. Security Council on Saturday called for a ceasefire in hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis and expressed serious concern about the welfare and protection of civilians on both sides as death toll reached 135 people killed in Gaza Strip.

“The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire,” Reuters quoted the 15-member body as saying in a statement.

The Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour described the Security Council’s call for ceasefire as “immediate” and urged for the respect of human rights.

As the death toll of Palestinians killed in Israeli raids on Gaza in the past five days reached 135 on Saturday, Mansour sounded the alarm that about 78 percent of those killed were civilians.

Before the Security Council’s statement, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he will discuss an international push for a ceasefire in Gaza with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his German and French counterparts during talks in Vienna on Sunday.

Hague said in a statement on Saturday that the discussions on ending the hostilities between Israel and Gaza would take place on the sidelines of talks on Iran’s nuclear program in the Austrian capital.

“It is clear that we need urgent, concerted international action to secure a ceasefire, as was the case in 2012” during the last round of conflict between Israel and militants in the Palestinian coastal enclave, Hague said.

“I will discuss this with John Kerry, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier tomorrow (Sunday) in Vienna.”

He said he had also spoken by telephone on Saturday with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

“I stressed the need for an immediate de-escalation and restoration of the November 2012 ceasefire, our deep concern about the number of civilian casualties and the need for all sides to avoid further civilian injuries and the loss of innocent life,” Hague said.

On Saturday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that escalating the conflict between Israel and Hamas would cost more “innocent lives.”

Sisi’s spokesman said the government was in touch with both sides after the president met Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair in Cairo.

Death toll

Eight Palestinians were killed in a series of Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, raising the toll in five days of attacks to 135, Agence France-Presse reported medics as saying.

The eight were killed in Gaza City, central El-Bureij and northern Jabaliya, and included a woman and a teenager, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Qudra also said five others were also killed in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, but had no immediate details about their identities.

The raid came shortly after two people were killed in a strike that hit a charitable association for the disabled in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, and another three people died in an attack in western Gaza City.

Earlier, Qudra announced the deaths of eight other Palestinians, including a man who died of wounds sustained in an earlier strike, five people killed in Gaza’s northern Jebaliya, and two further south in Deir el Balah.

Local officials said the morning’s raids hit targets that included mosques and homes of Hamas officials, throughout the coastal enclave.

The latest fatalities raise the death toll to 121 since Israel began Operation Protective Edge early Tuesday in an attempt to halt cross-border rocket fire by militant groups.

Since then, militants have fired approximately 520 mortar rounds and rockets that struck Israel, while another 140 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, an Israeli army statement said late Friday.

It is the deadliest violence since November 2012, with a growing number of rockets fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and even as far north as Haifa.

So far, no Israelis have been reported to be killed.

(With Reuters and AFP)