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UN officials strongly condemn deadly attacks in Israel

UN officials were “in close contact with all concerned to urge maximum restraint” following “horrific scenes of violence” that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded in Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip amid rocket attacks by armed Palestinian militants early Saturday morning, with the UN Security Council announcing it would hold a Sunday afternoon private meeting to discuss the matter.

The UN Secretary-General condemned “in the strongest terms” the attack by Hamas against Israeli towns, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said on Saturday.

“The attacks have so far claimed numerous Israeli civilian lives and injured many hundreds,” Mr. Dujarric said. “The Secretary-General is appalled by reports that civilians have been attacked and abducted from their own homes.”

The UN chief is deeply concerned for the civilian population and urges maximum restraint and that “all diplomatic efforts” are made “to avoid a wider conflagration”, the UN Spokesperson said. “Civilians must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law at all times.”

With deepest condolences to the families of the victims, the UN chief called for the immediate release of all abducted persons, Mr. Dujarric said.

“He stresses that violence cannot provide a solution to the conflict, and that only through negotiation leading to a two-State solution can peace be achieved,” the UN Spokesperson said.

Reports of hostages

“I vehemently condemn this morning’s multi-front assault against Israeli towns and cities near the Gaza Strip and barrage of rockets reaching across central Israel by Hamas militants,” said Tor Wennesland, the UN's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

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“These events have resulted in horrific scenes of violence and many Israeli fatalities and injuries, with many believed to be kidnapped inside the Strip,” he said. “These are heinous attacks targeting civilians and must stop immediately.”

Deeply concerned for the well-being of all civilians, he said he is “in close contact with all concerned to urge maximum restraint”.

“This is a dangerous precipice and I appeal to all to pull back from the brink,” he said, calling on all sides to protect civilians.

‘Possibly thousands of indiscriminate rockets’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk echoed that concern.

“Civilians must never be the target of attack,” he said, pointing to reports that Israelis have been taken hostage.

“I am shocked and appalled at reports this morning that hundreds, possibly thousands, of indiscriminate rockets have been fired by Palestinian armed groups towards Israel, and that at least 22 Israelis have been killed and hundreds injured.”

Airstrikes in Gaza

Noting that Israeli forces have responded with air strikes into the densely populated Gaza Strip, he called on them to “take all precautions to avoid civilian casualties there”.

“I call for an immediate stop to the violence, and appeal to all sides and key countries in the region to de-escalate to avoid further bloodshed,” he said.

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