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July 28, 2014 11:03 am
Fighting in the Gaza Strip abated on Monday at the start of a major Muslim holiday as international pressure mounted for a ceasefire to end nearly three weeks of hostilities between Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas.
The Israeli army said that only one rocket had been fired at Israel by noon local time on Monday, and that it had halted attacks and was only responding to militant fire.
The army shelled the area of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya and struck three targets from the air after a rocket was fired at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, the military said.
“The ceasefire or abatement is dynamic on the ground,” the chief army spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, told local media. “If we need, we will respond.”
There was no immediate statement from Hamas as war-weary Gazans observed Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the close of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council called for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire”, its strongest statement yet on the conflict that has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, along with 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel.
The Security Council urged Israel and Hamas “to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond”, allowing for the delivery of urgently needed assistance to Gaza. The call was made in a non-binding “presidential statement” that fell short of a formal resolution.
In a telephone call on Sunday with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Barack Obama urged an immediate ceasefire, calling it a “strategic imperative”, according to a White House statement.
Mr Obama expressed “growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza”, the statement said.
Diplomatic efforts to arrange a ceasefire have been complicated by regional tensions and the lack of a mediator trusted by all sides.
Hamas is suspicious of Egypt, whose president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is hostile to the Islamist group and its parent organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Israeli officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the mediation efforts of US secretary of state John Kerry, criticising his latest ceasefire proposal as tilted toward Hamas and giving too big a role to Turkey and Qatar, the group’s allies and regional rivals of Egypt
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