UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged an immediate halt to violence in Gaza, saying the Palestinian territory is in a “critical condition”.
“In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” he said in New York after returning from a visit to the region.
Israel launched an offensive against Palestinian Hamas militants in the small coastal territory three weeks ago after a surge in rocket fire.
Ban was critical of both sides for firing into civilian areas.
He said Hamas had fired missiles into civilian areas of Israel, while Israeli forces had used high-explosive weapons in the crowded Gaza Strip.
The people of Gaza had nowhere to run to, he added, emphasising that participants in conflicts had a responsibility to protect civilians.
He reiterated the UN’s call for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Both sides had behaved in an irresponsible, “morally wrong” fashion, Ban said, in allowing the violence to continue despite the efforts of the UN and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“It’s a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian,” he told reporters at UN HQ.