Gaza crisis: UN’s Ban calls for ceasefire after Israeli airstrike kills civilians

NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) -- United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called on all parties in Israel and Gaza to cooperate with Egypt and reach an immediate ceasefire to end the escalating conflict, hours after an Israeli airstrike flattened a residential building and killed 10 civilians.

Sunday was the fifth and bloodiest day of attacks, with Israel carrying out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip while Hamas militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets at Israel. One person was injured in Israel and at least 26 people were killed in Gaza on Sunday alone, raising the week's death toll in the Gaza Strip to at least 64 with more than 550 people injured.

"This must stop. I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate cease fire," Ban said in a statement released by his office. "Any further escalation will inevitably increase the suffering of the affected civilian populations and must be avoided. I am heading to the region to appeal personally for ending the violence and contribute to ongoing efforts to that end."

The call for a ceasefire came hours after an Israeli airstrike flattened a residential building in the Naser district of Gaza City, killing 10 people from the same family, including 5 children and 4 women. It is believed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombed the building by mistake due to a technical error, instead having targeted the house of a senior Hamas militant in charge of the group's rocket firing teams.

Israeli military officials were reluctant to discuss the incident, but the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, strongly condemned the deaths and promised to strike back. "The massacre against the Ad-Dalo family will not go unpunished," the group said, later adding that it was shelling Israeli cities and bases in response.

Ban expressed his concern about the violence on both sides and urged all parties to stop. "I am deeply saddened by the reported deaths of more than ten members of the Dalu family, including women and children, and additional Palestinian civilians killed as a result of the ongoing violence in the Gaza strip," he said. "I am also alarmed by the continuing firing of rockets against Israeli towns, which has killed several Israeli civilians."

According to the IDF, Hamas militants fired a total of 146 rockets at Israel on Sunday, including 105 rockets which impacted and 41 rockets which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The Iron Dome system uses sophisticated radar to track, intercept and destroy incoming missiles.

Israel earlier authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 army reservists, adding to fears that Israel is preparing to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip if the violence continues to escalate. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday said such an invasion would have "serious repercussions", and warned this would be unacceptable to Egypt and the international community.

In the winter of 2008-2009, Israel launched a surprise attack on the Gaza Strip which marked the beginning of a three-week military conflict between Israel and Hamas, killing nearly 1,500 people and leaving thousands more injured and displaced. Israel stated its aim was to stop rocket fire from and arms import into Gaza.

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