UN chief Ban to travel in 'solidarity' with Israelis, Palestinians

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives statements about Syria, Gaza and the downing of a Malaysian airline over Ukraine at UN headquarters in New York on July 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives statements about Syria, Gaza and the downing of a Malaysian airline over Ukraine at UN headquarters in New York on July 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon heads to the Middle East on Sunday for a trip meant to express "solidarity" with Israelis and Palestinians caught in a bloody 12-day conflict.

Saturday's announcement came on one of the bloodiest days in Israel's operation against Hamas, with 47 Palestinians killed in Gaza and two Israeli soldiers and a civilian killed by militant fire.

The fatalities brought the Gaza death toll to 343 and the overall Israeli deaths to five, as the Jewish state's warplanes intensified their bombardment and troops pressed a ground assault.

The UN chief plans to act "in coordination with regional and international actors, to end the violence and find a way forward," his office said in a statement.

In an "effort to encourage a durable ceasefire," Mr Ban will travel to Doha, then proceed to Kuwait City, Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, it added.

Mr Ban's trip is meant to "express solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians and to help them", the statement said.

The Secretary-General will return to New York by the end of the week.