Wednesday, November 21, 2012
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called on Israel to exercise “maximum restraint” in its operation focused on Gaza, saying in Jerusalem that the loss of civilian lives was “unacceptable under any circumstances.” Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the two held a meeting, Mr. Ban also said he “strongly cautioned against a ground invasion” of the Palestinian enclave.
The latest wave of violence – which includes rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza – began on 14 November. A chorus of UN officials, beginning with the Secretary-General, have appealed for an end to the violence and strongly urged the parties to achieve an immediate ceasefire.
“Rockets have hit areas just outside of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Israeli towns near Gaza, killing and injuring civilians,” said Mr. Ban, calling the attacks “unacceptable, irresponsible and reckless.”
“I strongly condemn these actions,” he states. “Rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel must cease immediately.” He added that any further escalation benefits no one. “I know how difficult the situation is here, but Israel must exercise maximum restraint,” he said, also taking noted of an Israeli statement that Israeli military operations focused on “military facilities.”
“While Israeli rockets may be aimed at military targets inside Gaza, they kill and injure civilians and damage civilian infrastructures,” he said. “The loss of civilian lives is unacceptable under any circumstances. The excessive use of force is unlawful and must be rejected. He added that, in the course of military operations, civilians are “apt to be victimized, as we have seen.”
The Secretary-General said his “paramount immediate concern” was for the safety and well-being of all civilians – in Israel and in Gaza. “Innocent people, including children, are being killed and injured on both sides,” he said. “I appeal to all those commanding, bearing and operating arms – weapons – to respect international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times.”
Mr. Ban made similar points at a press conference with Israeli President Shimon Peres, with whom he also met privately, in addition to holding meetings with several other Israeli leaders.
In the Egyptian capital of Cairo earlier, Mr. Ban held separate meetings there with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, and the Egyptian Prime Minister, Hisham Mohamed Qandil.
At press conferences with the two leaders, Mr. Ban called for an immediate ceasefire by “all sides” involved in the violence in Gaza, echoed previous statements in saying that rocket fire from Gaza into Israel was “unacceptable,” and said publically for the first time that an Israeli ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave would mark a “dangerous escalation” that must be avoided.
He spoke at that time as media reports, citing Egyptian and Palestinian officials, said a ceasefire in the conflict was “imminent,” and that Israel had put its plans for a land invasion on hold, though it had made no official comment.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)