Smoke and dust rise from the coastal side of the Gaza strip following an Israeli military strike on August 20, 2014
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table to quickly agree on a lasting truce in Gaza.
In a unanimously adopted statement, the 15-member council "offered full support to the Egyptian initiative and called upon the parties to resume negotiations to urgently reach a sustainable and lasting ceasefire."
The statement drafted by France was agreed after negotiations in Cairo teetered on the verge of collapse amid a fresh flareup of violence in the war that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians since July 8.
The measure fell short of a full resolution, but diplomats signaled they would be ready to move toward a stronger response if the Egyptian-led peace track hit a dead end.
"The urgency today was to respond to the fact that the talks appear to be breaking down and there has been a resumption of hostilities, and it was important for the Security Council to respond to that," said British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, whose country holds the council presidency.
Earlier this month, Jordan circulated a draft resolution backed by Arab countries that calls for a ceasefire, the lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the delivery of urgently-needed aid to the Palestinians.
The fighting over the last six weeks marks the most violent confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, from 2000-2005.
- Palestinians want peace deal -
Palestinian representative to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said his side was ready to return to the negotiations in Cairo.
"We want a sustainable negotiated peace. We want to stop dying. We want the violence to end. In order to do that, Israel must cease its aggression and agree to a deal," Mansour told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.
The armed wing of Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas warned foreign airlines against flying into Tel Aviv on Wednesday and declared the Cairo talks over.
Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of air strikes across Gaza in response to multiple rocket attacks on southern Israel, as nine days of calm exploded into bloodshed.
In the statement, the council expressed "grave concern" at the return to hostilities and the loss of civilian lives.
It called on the sides to "prevent the situation from escalating and to reach an immediate humanitarian ceasefire" as a first step toward a deal on a lasting truce.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the flareup in violence on Tuesday and called on both sides to reach "an immediate understanding on a durable ceasefire."
"The hopes of the people of Gaza for a better future and the hopes of the people of Israel for sustainable security rest on the talks in Cairo," Ban said.