Sporadic Violence Mar Israel-Palestine Ceasefire, Toll at 1,043

Harinder Mishra/Gaza/Jerusalem
Sporadic Violence Mar Israel-Palestine Ceasefire, Toll at 1,043
Sporadic Violence Mar Israel-Palestine Ceasefire, Toll at 1,043

Sporadic attacks by Israel and Hamas today punctuated a lull in fighting amid calls by the US and the UN for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" to end the 21-day conflict during Eid.

Israeli tank fire killed a four-year-old boy in the northern Gaza Strip today, the first death since the two sides began observing an unofficial lull in fighting.

Israeli jets pounded several sites in Gaza after a rocket was launched at Israel. However, an Israeli army spokesman said there were no air strikes on Gaza since last night but that one rocket was fired from Gaza last night and another this morning, with the army responding to it.

"This ceasefire or abatement is dynamic on the ground. If we need to, we will respond," Israel's chief military spokesman Brigadier General Motti Almoz said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked both the parties to immediately halt violence in Gaza, saying the Palestinian territory is in a "critical condition".

"In the name of humanity, the violence must stop," he told reporters.

Shortly after he spoke, there were reports of two explosions in Gaza City - one in a children's playground and one near Gaza's main hospital.

Seven children killed when the Israeli missile hit the playground, a Palestinian official said.

The latest death raised the Palestinian death toll to 1,043 in Israel's military campaign in Gaza to destroy rockets and cross-border tunnels which began on July 8. The conflict has also claimed the lives of 43 Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai national.

The Gaza health ministry yesterday revised the number of Palestinian dead down by 30 after some relatives found missing family members.

The UN Security Council late last night called for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" between Israel and Palestine, asking the parties to implement the truce beyond the Muslim holiday of Eid and allow delivery of urgently needed assistance in Gaza.

An emergency session of the council backed a UN statement calling for a truce over Eid al-Fitr "and beyond".

The Security Council endorsed a statement from Rwanda, the current president of the council, calling for a "durable" truce based on an Egyptian initiative - under which a pause in hostilities would lead to substantive talks on the future of Gaza, including the opening of Gaza's border crossings.

Meanwhile, Gaza had its quietest night in weeks after a weekend punctuated by brief truce initiatives offered by both Israel and Hamas.

US President Barack Obama also telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called for an "immediate and unconditional ceasefire".

"The President underscored the US' strong condemnation of Hamas' rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself. The President also reiterated the US' serious and 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," a White House statement said.

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