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Updated: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 04:23:10 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Gaza conflict: Fighting lulls as UN backs ceasefire calls



A Palestinian woman and a girl carry flowers to a family grave on Eid al-Fitr at a cemetery in Gaza City July 28, 2014. The U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement on Sunday urging Israel, Palestinians and Islamist Hamas militants to implement a humanitarian truce beyond the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, and engage in efforts to achieve a durable ceasefire REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (© GAZA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CIVIL UNREST RELIGION)

A Palestinian woman and a girl carry flowers to a family grave on Eid al-Fitr at a cemetery in Gaza City July 28, 2014. The U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement on Sunday urging Israel, Palestinians and Islamist Hamas militants to implement a humanitarian truce beyond the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, and engage in efforts to achieve a durable ceasefire REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CIVIL UNREST RELIGION) - RTR40C99 Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

A relative lull descended on the war-torn Gaza Strip at the start of a major Muslim holiday on Monday, as international efforts intensified to end the three-week war between Israel and Hamas and the UN called for an "immediate" ceasefire.

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The calm came as Muslims started celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

But there was little holiday cheer in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian families huddled inside their homes, fearing more airstrikes. At a cemetery in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighbourhood, those who came to pay traditional respects at their ancestors' graves gathered around a large crater from an airstrike a week ago that had broken up several graves.

The Israeli military said it had not carried out any attacks in Gaza since 9:30 p.m. local time on Sunday but that troops on the ground were pressing on with efforts to destroy the cross-border tunnels constructed by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

The military also said that Hamas fired a single rocket into Israel in the morning hours Monday, but that there was no damage or casualties.

UN backs 'unconditional' ceasefire

In New York, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire," its strongest statement yet on the conflict that has already killed 1,030 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. Also, two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have died in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.

The pressure for a ceasefire followed new attacks launched by Israel and Hamas on Sunday despite back-and-forth over proposals for another temporary halt to the fighting. The Security Council urged Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond." It said this would allow for the delivery of urgently needed assistance.

The council's presidential statement also called on the parties "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative."

Israel did not immediately comment on the statement.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his concern over the mounting Palestinian casualties.

The White House said Obama reiterated that Israel has a right to defend itself and condemned Hamas' rocket attacks. Obama said a lasting peace will ultimately require a demilitarized Gaza and dismantling of terror groups. The U.S. president also pushing for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire that would allow Israeli and Palestinian civilians to return to normalcy.

International diplomats have hoped that a temporary lull in the fighting could be expanded into a more sustainable truce to end the bloodshed.

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