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Updated: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:51:14 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Gaza conflict: Fighting resumes as UN backs ceasefire calls



A relative of Palestinian man Hussien Abu al-Naja, whom medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns during his funeral on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 28, 2014. One of the most joyous days in the Muslim calendar, the holiday of Eid al-Fitr was marked on Monday by tears and sorrow in the Gaza Strip, left battered by three weeks of merciless fighting between Israel and Hamas Islamists. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (© GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY RELIGION)

A relative of Palestinian man Hussien Abu al-Naja, whom medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns during his funeral on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 28, 2014. One of the most joyous days in the Muslim calendar, the holiday of Eid al-Fitr was marked on Monday by tears and sorrow in the Gaza Strip, left battered by three weeks of merciless fighting between Israel and Hamas Islamists. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY RELIGION) - RTR40DBC Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the two sides in the 21-day conflict in Gaza to begin talks to "address root causes" to "break the endless, senseless cycle" of violence.

"Gaza is in critical condition," Ban said on his return to New York from a six-day visit to the Middle East, adding that people have "nowhere to run," and that the destruction has been described to him as a "man-made hurricane."

He said ending the fighting between Israel and Hamas is a "matter of their political will."

"They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian," Ban told reporters. "Why these leaders are making their people to be killed by others? It's not responsible, [it's] morally wrong."

After a relative lull in the territory overnight, at the start of a major Muslim holiday, Israeli jets struck three sites in Gaza early Monday after a rocket was launched at Israel, the military said.

The strikes followed an almost 12-hour pause in fighting and came as international efforts intensified to end the conflict.

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Israel's military said it struck two rocket launchers and a rocket manufacturing facility in central and northern Gaza after a rocket hit southern Israel earlier Monday. The rocket caused no damage or injuries.

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

Earlier, the Israeli military said it had not carried out any attacks in Gaza since 9:30 p.m. 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.

Also, the Israeli military opened artillery fire on Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza in response to the rocket fired at Ashkelon, said the office of Israel's military spokesman. "Quiet will be met with quiet," the office statement said.

Despite the exchange, Monday has has been the quietest day of the conflict, which until now has seen "non-stop aggression" from both sides, CBC's Paul Hunter reported.

However, Hunter and others were caught in the middle of intense fighting on Sunday, just as they were boarding a bus to a border crossing, shortly before a possible truce was due to take effect.

"Thuds, bombs, plumes of smoke were increasingly getting closer, and we kind of made a run for it," he said. "There were explosions left, right and centre — scars in the roadway in front of us. Something hit the road to the left of us, and smoke came upon us, and we were fleeing what was behind us. It was relentless, in both directions."

As Muslims began celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday on Monday, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, there was fear and mourning instead of holiday cheer in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian families huddled inside their homes, fearing more airstrikes, while those who came to a cemetery in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighbourhood 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.

UN backs 'unconditional' ceasefire

In New York, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire."

Shortly after midnight Monday, the council issued its strongest statement yet on the conflict that has already killed 1,030 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers — along with two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel who died in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.

In a presidential statement issued shortly after midnight Monday, 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 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's 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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