UNITED NATIONS, June 29 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Sunday voiced his deep concern at "the deepening crisis in Iraq and the rising number of civilian deaths and injuries," calling for an immediate end to the "persecution of civilians based on their religion or ethnic background."
"The secretary-general expresses his grave concern at the deepening crisis in Iraq and the rising number of civilian deaths and injuries, with over one million Iraqis having fled their homes due to the fighting," said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesman. "The secretary-general calls on all parties to the conflict ensure that persecution of civilians based on their religion or ethnic background cease immediately."
The UN statement came as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were driven from their homes with Islamic insurgents advancing across the Middle East country. More than one million Iraqis have been displaced this year, half of whom were thrust into the miserable situation within the last couple of weeks, the United Nations said.
Iraq has seen a deteriorating security situation since June 10 when bloody clashes broke out between security forces and hundreds of Sunni militants who took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city in the north, and later seized swathes of territories after Iraqi security forces withdrew from their posts in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.
The elements of the crisis caused by the advances of the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) and its allies must be addressed militarily, Nickolay Mladenov, the secretary-general's special representative in Iraq, said as he briefed journalists here last week via video from Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, explaining that the success of any military operation hinges on cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil, the seat of the autonomous Kurdish region.
At least 900 civilians have been killed since June 5, when ISIL/ ISIS and its allies began their sweep across the country, and 650 have been wounded in fighting in Nineveh, Salah al-Din and Diyala, he said, citing updated figures.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said last week that at least 757 civilians were killed in those cities and 599 were injured. Overall, at least 1,300 people were killed in Iraq, and another 1,250 injured in the two weeks.
"All parties to the conflict, whether armed groups, ISIL, local militias or Iraqi Security Forces, have the legal obligation and moral responsibility to do everything they can to avoid and prevent violence against civilians and ensure that their humanitarian needs are addressed," the statement said. "The secretary-general is deeply troubled by persistent reports of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law taking place in Iraq, including summary execution of captured soldiers and detainees, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, and the abduction and murder of members of ethnic and religious communities."
While urging the government of Iraq to hold accountable any members of the Iraqi Security Forces or local militias who may have committed violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, Ban also commended the work of the UNAMI as it continues to do its utmost to assist in the settlement of the current conflict in Iraq, to monitor and report on human rights violations, and to support national and international humanitarian partners in providing assistance to those in need.