December 19, 2014
UN chief reiterates demand for 'durable ceasefire' as fighting declines but persists
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that parties to the conflict in Gaza have "expressed serious interest" in his request for a further 24 hour humanitarian ceasefire, but "have not yet agreed on the timing of its implementation."
"The Secretary-General calls on the parties to renew a humanitarian pause in Gaza and reiterates his demand for a durable ceasefire that could set the ground for the start of comprehensive negotiations," his spokesman said in a statement.
Israel eased its assaults in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave declined sharply today, the military said.
"The situation now is an unlimited truce," Israel's chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, told Israel Radio. "The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) is free to attack after any fire if there is any." The Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip said yesterday it wanted a 24-hour truce to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which started today. In the hours after its announcement, Gaza gradually fell quiet.
Israeli troops meanwhile continued to hunt and destroy cross-border militant tunnels inside Gaza, and it was not clear if Hamas was ready to agree to a prolonged pause.
A single rocket was fired out of the battered coastal territory at the Israeli city of Ashkelon in the first nine hours of Monday, according to the Israeli military, which said it struck two rocket launchers and a weapon manufacturing site in the northern and central Gaza strip.
Gaza's Health Ministry said a seven-year-old boy was killed in one of the attacks.
Hamas's armed wing said it killed two Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli military spokeswoman said a soldier was wounded there but she knew of no fatalities.