UN condemns Israel, Palestinian militants in heavy fighting

( dpa )- The United Nations late Saturday condemned both Israel and the Palestinians for the heavy fighting and in particular the high death toll inflicted by the Israeli Defence Forces on the Palestinian civilians in Gaza Strip.

The UN Security Council was convened for an urgent meeting at the request of Libya on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to discuss the situation, which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said had caused a terrible civilian death toll.

"The scenes today from Gaza have been particularly disturbing," Ban said in an address to the open council meeting. He said Saturday's intense fighting between the two sides began on Wednesday with a heavy barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

"We condemn Palestinian rocket attacks, and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism, which serves no purpose, endanger Israeli civilians, and bring misery to the Palestinian people," he said.

Ban said the UN recognizes Israel's right to defend itself, but "we condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children.

"We call on Israel to cease such attacks," he said, demanding that Israel complies with international humanitarian law.

Ban said the Palestinians fired a total of 117 rockets into Israel from Wednesday to Saturday, including 26 rockets on Saturday, hitting several civilian centres as far north of Israel as the port of Ashkelon.

Ban said the rockets appeared to be smuggled into Gaza when the border with Egypt was breached last month and the rockets are advanced Katyusha-like design, not the home-made Qassems used by the Palestinians in past months.

One Israeli was killed in Sderot and five others injured in Ashkelon.

The UN estimated 59 Palestinians, including 39 civilians, were killed and hundreds injured by the Israeli attacks.

Ban warned of conflicting reports and the figures he provided were estimates.

Ban said UN sources cited four incidences in which Israel fired at ambulances and medical personnel in Gaza. The Israeli incursions took place near Jabalya and in northern Gaza. Two Israeli soldiers were killed.

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