NAM and Palestine call for Gaza ceasefire


United Nations : Non Aligned Movement (NAM) countries and Palestine have called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, as violence erupted between Hamas and Israel in recent days.

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The Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, had also been battling each other while leaders on both sides were seeking an end to hostilities.

NAM countries urged the UN Security Council Thursday to assume "its responsibilities to help bring an immediate cessation of this latest Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and to consider a mechanism for the maintenance of the ceasefire".

"In this regard, the Non-Aligned Movement urges the Security Council to seriously consider the deployment of observers to monitor respect of the ceasefire," they said in a statement.

But US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who presides over the 15-nation council this month, said he had not received any request.

"We have not received any formal request," said Khalilzad, "When we receive it we will study it, consult with others. At this point, I don't have anything to say."

Khalilzad said he would meet with the non-aligned representatives and envoys from the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to discuss the situation in Gaza. NAM and OIC said they also would meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to protest Israeli military actions against targets in Gaza.

The NAM statement was backed by Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour who has made similar requests whenever conflict with Israel flared up. The council had never discussed the request.

The Non Aligned Movement, with more than 120 countries as members, has added its influence to support the Palestinians, but has had no success.

UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told a council meeting Thursday that factional fighting in Gaza had worsened since mid May following the resignation of Interior Minister Hani Kawasmeh. He said Hamas militants clashed with Fatah forces in residential areas "with no regard for the safety of civilians".

Fighting between Hamas and Fatah, as well as between Hamas and Israel, in the past month has killed 68 Palestinians and injured more than 200 others, Pascoe said.

Pascoe said more than 270 rockets had been fired into Israel in the past month. Israel retaliated with tanks entering Gaza for the first time since the ceasefire in November while Israeli air forces struck at targets in Gaza.

The UN has asked Israel to exercise restraint in the face of Palestinian attacks and threats of suicide bombings.