Annan slams Israeli military operation in Gaza
Annan also asks Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets against Israeli civilian targets.india Updated: Nov 04, 2006 05:13 IST
Criticising the Israeli defence forces' operations in northern Gaza, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday asked Tel Aviv to refrain from further escalating the "already grave" situation saying that continuing violence would make search for "just and lasting peace" more difficult.
Annan's statement came as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians reported that Israelis collected 30 to 40 women in two elementary schools run by it and took away their cell phones.
Later, two women were found to have suffered gunshot wounds, the agency said but did not explain how.
Two women were killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a crowd of women who, they say, were helping two besieged gunmen hiding in a Gaza mosque to flee. Militants escaped and Israelis say that they fled mingling with women who were acting as human shield.
The agency also expressed concern that the operation was being conducted in a densely populated area where 10,000 students attend schools operated by it. Besides, 400 of its own staff were a risk and it was finding difficult to reach humanitarian and health aid to the needy in the area.
Annan said he is "deeply concerned" over escalating violence and rising death toll in the Israeli operation. The military operations in the populated areas inevitably cause civilian casualties and in this operation several civilians, including women and at least one child, have already been killed or wounded, he said.
Asking Israel to do utmost to protect civilians, Annan also asked Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets against Israeli civilian targets.