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United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday urged Israel to abide by the UN Security Council resolution which called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and said that he would pass this message on to leaders in Jerusalem when he visits Israel on Thursday.
"All the member states of the United Nations have an obligation to abide by UNSC resolutions," he said during a press conference following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "[They] are binding in their nature, and I urge the Israeli leaders - as I have until now - to abide by this, to cease military operations, ensure a ceasefire, and engage in humanitarian assistance."
"My call is [for] an immediate end to violence in Gaza, and then to the Israeli military offensive and a halt to rocket attacks by Hamas," the secretary-general said.
"It is intolerable that civilians bear the brunt of this conflict," Ban continued. "Negotiations need to be intensified to provide arrangements and guarantees in order to sustain an enduring cease-fire and calm."
The secretary-general is in the region in an attempt to help facilitate an end to hostilities between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip. His first stop was in Cairo, after which he will be traveling to Jerusalem, Jordan, the West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait. However, when asked by reporters whether he will visit Gaza, he said that the stopover was not likely.
"I [would like] to visit Gaza, it was in my mind and heart, but in view of the current situationâ€¦I'm not quite sure at this time whether [that would be possible]," the secretary-general said.
He added that he "will have an opportunity to speak directly with UN staff working there tomorrow when I visit Israel."
"Once a ceasefire is attained, I will try to visit again, until then I will send assessment teams to Gaza," he continued.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit also attended the press conference, and used the forum to blast Israel.
"We must stop this killing machine," he said. "We should move as soon as possible, because time is not on our side. As we speak, our people in Palestine are being killed."
Gheit added that a ceasefire would not be possible without a full Israeli withdrawal.
"We hope in the next few days this will be possible," he added.
One possible solution to the crisis involves the use of Turkish troops as monitors, according to diplomats familiar with negotiations. Gheit did not reject the possibility outright during the press conference with Ban, but rather said that it was "premature" until Hamas agrees and the Palestinian Authority contacted.
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