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Updated: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 01:30:01 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Gaza conflict: UN Security Council backs calls for immediate ceasefire



A Palestinian woman reacts as she stands next to her destroyed house in Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip July 26, 2014. A 12-hour humanitarian truce went into effect on Saturday after Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip agreed to a U.N. request for a pause in fighting and efforts proceeded to secure a long-term ceasefire moved ahead. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (© GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT)

A Palestinian woman reacts as she stands next to her destroyed house in Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip July 26, 2014. A 12-hour humanitarian truce went into effect on Saturday after Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip agreed to a U.N. request for a pause in fighting and efforts proceeded to secure a long-term ceasefire moved ahead. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR406W3 Suhaib Salem/Reuters

The UN Security Council called for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" in the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas at an emergency meeting just after midnight Monday morning.

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The council met as Muslims started celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The pressure for a ceasefire followed new attacks launched by Israel and Hamas on Sunday despite going back and forth over proposals for another temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting.

A 12-hour lull Saturday, agreed to by both sides following intense U.S. and United Nations mediation efforts, could not be sustained.

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

Rwanda, the current council president, announced agreement on the statement Sunday night and called the immediate emergency meeting to approve it. The statement was drafted by Jordan, the Arab representative on the UN's most powerful body.

Presidential statements become part of the council's official record and must be approved at a council meeting. They are a step below Security Council resolutions, but unlike resolutions they require approval of all 15 members.

The statement never names either Israel or Hamas. Instead, it expresses "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties."

Palestinian death toll tops 1,000

The 20-day war has killed more than 1,030 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israel has lost 43 soldiers, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

The statement calls for "full respect" for international humanitarian law and reiterates "the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and their protection."

The statement also commends efforts by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to achieve a ceasefire. Ban is scheduled to address UN correspondents on Monday morning on his mission.

In the longer term, the statement urges the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace based on the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace "with secure and recognized borders."

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