United Nations chief appeals for Gaza ceasefire at Security Council

Smoke and flames are seen following what Palestinian witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 10, 2014. UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed Thursday for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, calli
Smoke and flames are seen following what Palestinian witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 10, 2014. UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed Thursday for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, calling on the international community to do everything to halt escalating violence in Gaza. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed Thursday for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, calling on the international community to do everything to halt escalating violence in Gaza.

"It is now more urgent than ever to try to find common ground for a return to calm and a ceasefire understanding," he told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

Ban said Hamas and Islamic Jihad had fired more than 550 rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the last few days and that Israel had launched more than 500 air strikes on Gaza.

Eighty-eight Palestinians, many of them civilians, are reported to have been killed and 339 injured, with around 150 homes destroyed or severely damaged and nearly 900 people displaced, he said.

Ban said all parties, including Palestinian armed groups, must respect international law.

"Once again civilians are paying the price for the continuation of conflict. My paramount concern is the safety and well-being of all civilians no matter where they are," he told the Council.

"Israel has legitimate security concerns but I am also concerned at the many Palestinian deaths and injuries as a result of Israeli operations," he said.