SANTO DOMINGO, July 16 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said in Haiti the cyclical violence in Gaza was "unacceptable," urging the Palestinians and Israel to resume peace talks at an early date.
"It is unacceptable that violence occurs regularly in this way ... My message is that violence must stop," Ban told reporters Tuesday at the end of his two-day visit to Haiti.
Israel and Hamas fighters have engaged in fierce cross-border attacks since last Tuesday when Israel started an all-out operation to halt Gaza rockets firing. The operation has claimed 223 Palestinian lives so far.
The Islamic Hamas movement and Palestinian militant groups agreed late Wednesday to a UN appeal of a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire with Israel Thursday.
Before the agreement on ceasefire, Hamas rejected an Egyptian initiative of ceasefire between Gaza militants and Israel earlier on Wednesday. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel would expand and increase" its campaign against Hamas and other militant organizations in Gaza until the rocket attacks from the coastal enclave come to an end.
The UN chief said he was disappointed at the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, which began in late 2008 and early 2009, continued in 2012 despite a ceasefire later in the same year and now occurred for a third time.
Ban said he was "deeply concerned" about the loss of lives and the displaced people, urging the two sides to return to the negotiating table.
"This is the only viable option at this time. I again urge you in the strongest possible terms to stop the violence, to restore dialogue and resolve these issues by peaceful means," he said.
Ban is currently in the Dominican Republic, where he arrived from Haiti on a four-day visit to the two Caribbean nations.