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UN chief voices concern at escalating violence in Gaza and southern Israel

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern today at the escalating violence in the Middle East, with Palestinian militants firing rockets into southern Israel and Israeli military forces carrying out subsequent strikes in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Ban “condemned the recent rocket fire from Palestinian militants, which hit a school bus and injured two Israeli civilians,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He calls for an immediate end to rocket fire.”

The Secretary-General also expressed concern “at reports of civilian casualties from Israeli operations in Gaza and calls for maximum restraint. He urges respect for international humanitarian law and calls for de-escalation and calm to prevent any further bloodshed.”

In recent weeks Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials have expressed their ongoing concern about the recent upsurge in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on the peace process between the two sides.

Talks between the two sides have been stalled since late September after Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. That decision prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.

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