by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council unanimously called on Saturday for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza strip. "The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire," said Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana of Rwanda, this month's president of the Security Council, in a statement read out to reporters outside council chambers.
The 2012 cease-fire referred to in the statement was brokered by Egypt, which served as a guarantor of the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the many who have called for a cease-fire.
"The Security Council members further called for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians," said the council statement, representing the views of all 15 members.
More than 100 people, mainly civilians, have been reported killed by Israeli air strikes this week in apparent retaliation for a rain of rockets on Israel fired from Gaza.
"The Security Council members expressed serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides," Gasana said, adding, that members "also expressed their support for the resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians with the aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on the two-state solution.
That long-sought solution calls for a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace.
The council president took no questions from reporters other than to say the statement was agreed to be issued at noon local time (1600 GMT).
However, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, stepped in front of a sparse media gathering for the unusual Saturday action.
"This unanimous position definitely calls for ending this military operation and aggression against our people," he said. " We hope that the Israeli side would abide by it."
"This massive amount of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip .. has exceeded the number 1,000 of martyrs and injured .. more than 130 Palestinians, most of them civilians -- in fact, according to (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) OCHA, they say it is 78 percent of the number killed are civilians, including many children, women and elderly -- and more than 900 injured and a large number of houses destroyed."
Appearing tieless in a business suit, Mansour said, "We worked all night long. We were hoping to have this position adopted last night but the situation in the Security Council led to officially adopting it at 12 o'clock (EDT)."
Waiting for a specific time could indicate there was more to the announcement than the face of it, a possible secret Hamas accord on halting hostilities at that hour.
Hamas is the militant organization controlling the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean Sea.
There was no immediate word from the Israelis on Saturday, their Sabbath.
Mansour thanked Jordan for representing Arab interests in the council and praised support from the Arab Group, Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
"This position by the Security Council calling for ending the hostilities, we understand it to mean to have an immediate cease- fire in place and to go to the cease-fire that was put in place ( in 2012) between Hamas and Israel negotiated through the brokership of Egypt," he said.
After three Israeli teen-agers were believed kidnapped and later found slain, a teen from Gaza was believed abducted and slain, touching off rounds of armed retaliation between Hamas and Israel.
Rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza, causing air raid alerts sending Israelis into bomb shelters. Israel said most of the rockets were intercepted by its "Iron Dome" air defense shield, causing relatively few human casualties.
In retaliation, Israel launched a series of aerial bombardments on what it called Hamas targets in Gaza. However, Israel said many of the targets were hidden in civilian areas, including near mosques, churches and schools
The Palestinian observer, Mansour, said: "We will observe very closely whether Israel will abide by this code. And we hope that they do. If they don't we have a lot in our arsenal and we will not allow the Security Council to rest for a minute because it is its job to maintain international peace and security and its job to stop this aggression against our people."