U.N. Calls For Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire As Death Toll Hits 135

Melissa Stusinski

The U.N. Security Council called for an Israeli-Palestinian cease fire as the death toll hit 135 in the conflict centered on the Gaza Strip. A council statement approved by all 15 members of the council calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm, and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Yahoo! News reports that the statement calls for "the reinstitution of the November 2012 cease-fire" brokered by Egypt, but does not give a time frame for when it should happen.

Palestinian U.N envoy Riyad Mansour stressed that the Palestinians' understanding is that the cease-fire should go into effect immediately. He added, "We will observe very closely whether Israel will abide by this call and we hope they do. If they don't, we have a lot in our arsenal, and we will not allow the Security Council to rest for a minute. It is its job to maintain international peace and security, and it is its job to stop this aggression against our people."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also called for an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire Saturday, adding that he would meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Germany and France on Sunday to discuss an end to the fighting.

While the United States has defended the Israeli attacks in response to the barrage of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, a militant group, other council members have decried Israel's escalating attacks. Mansour said that the rocket fire from Israel has killed or injured more than 1,000 Palestinians. No one has died in Israel from the continued rocket fire.

NBC News notes that the death toll for the latest offensive reached at least 135 people on Saturday. At least 75 percent of those killed were civilians and 40 percent were women and children, according to Palestinian health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra. He added that at least 920 others were injured, of which more than half were women and children.

Saturday's strikes from Israel left nine people dead, including two disabled women at a rehabilitation center. Israeli war planes also targeted a mosque believed to be hiding rockets.

In calling for a cease-fire, the U.N. Security Council's statement does not directly mention Hamas' rockets or the Israeli response. Rather, it expresses "serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides." It calls for "respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians."

If Israel does not heed the council's call for an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, Mansour told reporters that the Palestinians are prepared to go back to the council with a draft resolution that would condemn all violence against civilians in the conflict and call for "an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire."

[Image by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv]