Cairo: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called again on Wednesday for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.
Ban, at the start of a Middle East tour to push for an end to Israel’s 19-day-old offensive on Gaza, said he hoped an Egyptian ceasefire initiative would bear fruit soon.
“I repeat my call for an immediate and durable ceasefire,” he told a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “Hamas rocket attacks must stop and at the same time I have been condemning the excessive military operation by the Israelis,” he said.
Israeli forces have killed 971 Palestinians and wounded thousands in their Gaza offensive. Israel says 10 soldiers have been killed along with three civilians hit by cross-border Hamas rockets.
Ban earlier held talks with President Hosni Mubarak. “We shared our feelings and frustrations and pain over the ongoing violence in Gaza,” Ban said of the meeting.
A UN official said earlier that Ban would seek details on the progress of the Egyptian ceasefire proposals at his meeting with Mubarak.
Aboul Gheit said a Hamas delegation was holding talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on Wednesday on the truce proposals.
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq said on Tuesday the movement had “significant observations” on the Egyptian proposals. A Hamas delegation is in Cairo to relay the group’s position to Egyptian mediators.
The Egyptian proposal calls for a temporary ceasefire, followed by a long-term truce and the opening of Gaza’s border crossings in the presence of officials from the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces Hamas drove out of Gaza in 2007.
The third phase of the initiative deals with efforts to reconcile Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah group.
Ban’s Middle East tour will also take him to Jordan, Israel and Syria. He has indicated he will have no direct contacts with Hamas, which won Palestinian elections in 2006 and controls the Gaza Strip.
Both Israel and Hamas have ignored Ban’s previous calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.