Amidst an ‘appalling’ escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip since the collapse of a brief 1 August ceasefire, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the killing today of at least 10 Palestinian civilians in shelling outside of a United Nations school in Rafah which had been sheltering thousands of civilians.

“The attack is yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly requires protection by both parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and UN premises, among other civilian facilities,” declared Mr. Ban in a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.

“United Nations shelters must be safe zones not combat zones,” the Secretary-General’s statement continued, adding that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites. “This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is a moral outrage and a criminal act.”

The UN chief’s strongly worded statement comes after the collapse two days ago of a humanitarian ceasefire brokered by the United Nations and the Unites States, and in the wake of two earlier reported attacks near schools managed by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

As the brief pause faltered and attacks in Gaza escalated, UN humanitarian officials yesterday said that weeks of intense fighting has left medical services and facilities in the enclave “on the verge of collapse,” warning that a health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding.

Mr. Ban’s statement today expressed “profound dismay” over the appalling escalation of violence and loss of hundreds of Palestinian civilian lives since the breach of the ceasefire. The resurgence in fighting has only exacerbated the man-made humanitarian and health crisis wreaking havoc in Gaza.

“Restoring calm can be achieved through resumption of the ceasefire and negotiations by the parties in Cairo to address the underlying issues,” said the statement, adding: “The Secretary-General repeats his demand to the parties to immediately end the fighting and return to the path of peace. This madness must stop.”

Activist Annie Lennox has also continued her blogs about the unfolding events in Gaza, condemning the violence that has affected so many.

“Over the last week, the gamut of divisive opinions on the situation in Gaza has been represented and expressed freely on this blog,” she wrote on Facebook. "What tends to happen is that people tend to take “sides.” As simplistic as it might seem, my perspective lies on the side of “sustainable peace.”

“This should absolutely be the main imperative for all political leaders and representatives in the region. But as this onslaught continues, the more obscure the possibility of peace seems to become. I have personally observed the situation over the last two decades and have never before felt such an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

“Where on earth does the peaceful solution lie? Half the population of Gaza are teenagers and children… They are trapped. There is nowhere for them to safely avoid the bombardment. As time passes, the numbers of the dead and wounded will continue to rise exponentially while the hospital facilities and basic services will cease to function. What kind of future can both sides hope to have after this kind of armageddon?

“A prospective ceasefire in Gaza fell apart Friday morning when two Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting inside Gaza and a third was suspected captured.

“Subsequent Israeli strikes killed at least 62 Palestinians in east Rafah, where the capture was reported, and 19 in south Rafah later in the day, according to the Gaza health ministry.

“’I think it’s going to be very hard to put a ceasefire back together again,’ US president Barack Obama said. He condemned Hamas.

“Obama said that ‘innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on our conscience and we have to do more to protect them.’

“1,600 Palestinians have been killed and an estimated 8,750 wounded in the conflict so far, the ministry said.

“Israel continued striking Gaza Friday night. Rockets continued to fly into Israel, the army said, and air raid sirens were reported in Ashkelon and elsewhere.

“The Israeli army named the missing soldier as Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23. Sixty-three soldiers have been killed in the conflict.

“Hamas political officials denied knowledge of a captured soldier. One said, “Even if it was true, the military leadership are the only ones authorized to report such an event.”

“Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in clashes in the West Bank on Friday, Palestinian medical officials said.

“An estimated 250,000 Gazans have sought refuge in UN shelters, UNRWA said, warning of an imminent collapse of its support network.”

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