Ban Ki-Moon urges ‘ maximum restraint’ in Gaza

The UN chief is traveling the Middle East to raise support for a place plan for Gaza.

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DOHA // United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon urged Israel to “exercise maximum restraint” and spare the lives of civilians in its campaign in Gaza, where Sunday’s Palestinian death toll passed 100.

He also condemned the “atrocious action” of Israel in Shejaiya, near Gaza city, where a blistering hour-long assault at dawn left 62 people dead and at least 250 people wounded.

“While I was en route to Doha, dozens more civilians, including children had been killed in Israeli military strikes in Shejaiya. I condemn this atrocious action,” he told a press conference in Doha, his first stop on a regional trip aimed at bringing an end to the fighting.

“Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians,” he said, adding that it also “must respect the humanitarian law,” as it pressed on with its major military campaign that began on July 8.

“Too many innocent people are dying...(and) living in constant fear” in the narrow coastal strip controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement, he said.

At least 438 have been killed in Israel’s campaign on Gaza, more than a third of them women and children, according to medics.

The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed in a series of attacks inside Gaza on the third day of a major ground operation.

Mr Ban is also travelling to Kuwait City, Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.

He is to meet Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo on Monday to discuss proposals to arrange a truce in the Gaza conflict.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said their talks would “focus on the deteriorating situation in Gaza and the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire”.

Cairo had proposed a halt to the fighting but Hamas rejected this, saying it had not been consulted, and Israel initially accept it.

Hamas has laid out a set of conditions, including the lifting of Israel’s eight-year blockade on Gaza, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of scores of prisoners Israel rearrested in recent weeks.

Hamas also wants its Turkish and Qatari allies to be involved in any truce negotiations.

* Reuters