U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decided at an emergency Security Council meeting Friday he will leave for the Middle East Saturday to aid in a resolution of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the strife-ridden region, where Israeli forces expanded their ground offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip this week.
Ban’s decision follows attempts to persuade Hamas to agree to a cease-fire, as more than 300 people already have died during the conflict. Strikes in different areas of Gaza killed an estimated 52 people Friday, even as Egypt attempted to negotiate a truce between the two sides. While leaders in the Palestinian territories threatened to go to international courts in protest of the Israeli government’s attacks on civilians in Gaza, Israel renewed its ground offensive Saturday.
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the international community needs to “assume its responsibility to urgently help restore a serious prospect for a two-state solution that brings an end to the decades-long conflict and occupation,” according to the Associated Press.
“Israel has legitimate security concerns, and we condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that ended yesterday’s temporary cease-fire. But we are alarmed by Israel’s heavy response,” AP quoted Feltman as saying while urging the Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning the attacks.
The draft resolution calls for “all necessary measures to ensure the protection of civilians, including the immediate cessation of military reprisals, collective punishment and excessive use of force against the Palestinian civilian population,” AP reported, citing a copy it had obtained Friday night. It added the resolution does not mention Hamas.
Meanwhile, the Israelis’ expanded ground attack that was launched Thursday killed 52 people Friday, according to reports carried by the local Haaretz. And Israel’s foreign ministry issued a travel advisory late Friday requesting all its citizens to avoid traveling to Turkey, where pro-Palestinian protests began the same day.