UN pledges to rebuild Gaza for 'last time'

A Palestinian man salvages gas canisters from the ruins of buildings destroyed by what police said were Israeli air strikes and shelling in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip August 3, 2014. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the world's
A Palestinian man salvages gas canisters from the ruins of buildings destroyed by what police said were Israeli air strikes and shelling in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip August 3, 2014. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the world's patience is being tested and that "the senseless cycle of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel, must end". -- PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The United Nations is ready to help rebuild Gaza but for the last time, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Wednesday.

Ban opened a special meeting of the United Nations General Assembly with an appeal for a lasting peace as a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was holding for a second day.

"The senseless cycle of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel, must end," he told the 193-nation assembly.

After three wars in Gaza in six years, the UN secretary-general warned that the world's patience with both the Israelis and the Palestinians was being tested.

"Do we have to continue like this - build, destroy, and build and destroy?" Ban asked.

"We will build again but this must be the last time - to rebuild. This must stop now."

Four weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip have left 1,875 Palestinians and 67 Israelis dead, with nearly half of Gaza's 1.8 million people driven from their homes.

Schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed in Gaza, with UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry saying the carnage was worse than during the last conflict in 2008-2009.

Hopes for peace were buoyed as Egypt brokered talks with Israeli and Palestinian envoys intended to address demands to lift Israel's blockade of Gaza and demilitarisation of the territory.

UN officials appealed for a durable peace and stressed that any agreement should go beyond an end to the fighting to address the root of the conflict.

"The nightmare of the last four weeks has been a terrible reminder that only a negotiated political settlement can bring security and peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike," said Ban.

The UN General Assembly was convened at the request of Arab countries, who have criticized the Security Council for failing to adopt a strongly-worded resolution to press Israel and Hamas to stop fighting.

Jordan has circulated a draft resolution in the Security Council calling for a ceasefire, a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and an investigation of attacks on UN-run schools, used as shelters by civilians.

But the document has yet to come up for a vote.

The 15-member Council adopted a statement on July 27 calling for a truce and expressing support for Egypt's mediation efforts after the United States dropped reservations that such a text would single out Israel.

Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour renewed his call for the Security Council to adopt a resolution and said failure to act was tantamount to a "constant appeasement of Israel." Israel stands as "a state above the law, immune from punishment, even when it commits war crimes and threatens international peace and security," Mansour said.

Israel's ambassador, meanwhile, accused Arab countries of lacking "morals," saying they were "ganging up" against Israel while refusing to condemn the threat posed by radical Islam in Iraq, Nigeria, Kenya and other countries.

Hamas is a "genocidal organisation" charged Ron Prosor, urging nations to either "take a firm stand against terrorism, or stand on the sidelines as the threat grows stronger throughout the world."