Secretary-General António Guterres made a statement to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, a few minutes before the negotiated ceasefire was due to take effect.
“I welcome the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, after 11 days of deadly hostilities”, he said, extending his deepest condolences to all the victims of the violence, and their loved ones, across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
According to latest news reports, at least 232 Palestinians, including more than 60 children have been killed since violence erupted across the Gaza-southern Israeli border on Monday. At least 12 were killed in Israel, as Hamas and other extremist groups unleashed indiscriminate rocket fire, sometimes deep into Israeli territory.
“I commend Egypt and Qatar for the efforts carried out, in close coordination with the UN, to help restore calm to Gaza and Israel”, the UN chief added, calling on all sides to observe the ceasefire.
Mr. Guterres said it was essential for the wider international community to work with the UN, to develop “an integrated, robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery, that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions.”
Tackle root causes
He stressed that leaders in Israel and Palestine had a responsibility “beyond the restoration of calm, to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict.”
He described Gaza as an “integral part of the future Palestinian State” saying no effort should be spared to bring about “real national reconciliation that ends the division.” Hamas has controlled the enclave since winning elections in 2006 and driving our the rival Fatah faction, which holds power in the West Bank.
Invested in peace
Mr. Guterres underscored the UN’s “deep commitment” to working with Israelis and Palestinians, and with all international and regional partners, including through the Middle East Quartet, “to return to the path of meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and allow for the realization of a two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, UN resolutions, international law and mutual agreements.”Asked what he thought the next step should be, the Secretary-General said that stabilizing the ceasefire was the immediate priority