UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council called Monday for an extended pause to hostilities in Gaza so that humanitarian assistance can be delivered to besieged residents of the occupied territory.
The 15-member body issued a presidential statement after an emergency meeting saying it supports UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call "for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, allowing for the delivery of urgently needed assistance, and they urged all parties to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond."
Ban said he welcomed the Security Council's statement, as life in Gaza has deteriorated rapidly, saying there have been "hundreds of Palestinians already killed in Gaza and horrifying levels of physical destruction" since Israel launched its strike against Hamas in Gaza.
"In the name of humanity, the violence must stop," he said after a visit to the region and before briefing the Security Council. "Gaza is in critical condition. Israeli missiles have pummeled Gaza. Hamas rockets have randomly struck Israel. No country would accept the threat of rocket from above and tunnels from below. At the same time, all occupying powers have an international legal obligation to protect civilians."
Ban said at least 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, while about 46 Israelis have died. The UN estimates that more than 173,000 people in Gaza -- nearly 10 percent of the population of 1.8 million -- have been displaced and sought shelter in UN-run facilities.
But even those facilities are not safe, according to some reports. Late last week, Ban said, at least 16 people were reported killed and hundreds hurt in an attack at a school in Beit Hanoun, a facility run by the UN Relief and Works Agency.
"The people of Gaza have nowhere to run," Ban said. "They are trapped and besieged on a speck of land. Every area is a civilian area. Every home, every school, every refuge has become a target."
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said the statement by the Security Council was incomplete in that it "miraculously" did not mention Hamas, Israel's right to defend itself or the 2,500 estimated rockets that he said have been fired into Israel during the conflict.
"Those things are lacking in this statement," Prosor said.
Riyad Mansour, Palestine's ambassador to the UN, said the statement falls short of a resolution that would help end Israel's "aggression" against Gazans.
"The business of the Security Council is maintaining international peace and security," he said. "And they should have adopted a resolution a long time ago to condemn this aggression and call for this aggression to be stopped immediately to provide the Palestinian people with protection."