United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered a gut-wrenching plea for a truce between Israel and Hamas Monday, reiterating the U.N.’s call for an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire.
“As the world marks Eid al-Fitr, it is time for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire,” Ban said, referring to the Muslim holiday at the end of Ramadan. “In the name of humanity, the violence must stop.”
Soon after his speech, explosions rocked Gaza City’s main hospital, al-Shifa and a neighboring park. Palestinian health official Ayman Sahabani said at least 10 people were killed and 46 wounded, some of them children. The Israel Defense Force said it was a rocket misfired by Hamas.
Nearly 1,050 Palestinians, 42 Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and one Thai worker have been killed as of Monday after 21 days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas faction. Another 6,000 have been wounded.
Monday marks the Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan and the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. The U.N. hoped to capitalize on the holiday by drawing up a cease-fire, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took issue with the language of the cease-fire. He says it does not speak to Israel's needs, instead just addressing the situation in Gaza.
"The statement did not deal with the harm done to Israeli civilians, nor to the fact that Hamas turned Gaza civilians into human shields. ... [It] has no answer for Israel's security needs, among them a demilitarization of the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu said.
Previous cease-fires have been shaky at best; both Israel and Hamas have rejected each other’s calls for a cessation of hostilities and accuse each other of violating their own truces.
Secretary-General Ban called for Israel to curb its economic isolation of Gaza and for both sides to start sincere peace talks.
“Israelis and Palestinians have a responsibility to stop the fighting now -- to start the dialogue now -- and to address the root causes that will finally break the endless cycle of senseless suffering,” Ban said. “More suffering and siege conditions in Gaza will only hurt innocent civilians, further isolate Israel, empower extremists on all sides, and leave our world far less safe.”
As of Monday morning EDT, there were around 173,000 Gazan civilians taking refuge in facilities run by the United National Relief and Works Agency. Even those facilities have not proven to be completely safe for refugees. Ninety-four UNRWA facilities have been damaged since June 1, 2014.
One U.N. aid worker told Ban that “there is no safe place in Gaza.”
The secretary-general made his remarks at U.N. headquarters in New York after a six-day trip to the Middle East to assess the situation and speak with leaders. Ban says he’s working with all leaders in the region, including Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.