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UN expresses relief over unilateral ceasefire by Israel

Expressing relief over Tel Aviv's decision to end military action in Gaza, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon Hamas to stop firing of rockets into southern Israel.

world Updated: Jan 18, 2009 09:33 IST

Expressing relief over Tel Aviv's decision to end military action in Gaza, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called upon Hamas to stop firing of rockets into southern Israel.

In a statement issued here, Ban described the Tel Aviv's decision as the "first step" towards establishing a "durable and sustainable" ceasefire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

"The UN stands ready to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the 1.5 million Gazans," Ban said while urging Israel to open the crossings to enable the aid to reach Gaza.

"Any durable solution must include the reopening of the crossings and the prevention of illicit trafficking in arms," said the Secretary–General who is in Middle East to discuss reopening of the stalled peace process with regional leaders.

Stating that there has been too much suffering for too long, Ban said, "We have to end it now. We must begin to help people rebuild their lives."

More than 1000 Gazans have been killed in the three-week military action by Israel, which had contended that it was meant to eliminate the capacity of Hamas to fire rockets into its territory threatening the civilian population.

Israel has also been demanding an end to arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza by Hamas through underground tunnels.