UN Security Council holds urgent meeting on Gaza

An Israeli soldier carries a tank shell near the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli soldier carries a tank shell near the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza, where the Palestinian death toll passed 100 in a single day.

Diplomats said the meeting, open to the public and set for 1.30pm NZ time, was requested by council member Jordan, following a call by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

As regional leaders met in Doha for urgent talks on a ceasefire, Abbas said that "what the occupation forces did today in Shejaiya is a crime against humanity", referring to a blistering hours-long Israeli assault near Gaza City that has claimed 62 Palestinian lives and wounded another 250.

"Those who committed it will not go unpunished," Abbas added.

As the Palestinian death toll soared to 438 in the bloodiest single day in Gaza in five years, a spokesman for the enclave's emergency services said more than a third of the victims were women and children.

The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed inside Gaza on the third day of a major ground operation.

The armed wing of Hamas claimed it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, prompting celebrations in the streets of Gaza City and West Bank cities.

The Council's 15 members held a meeting on Gaza on Friday but failed to reach agreement on a joint declaration.

Since the conflict began on July 8, the council also held a first inconclusive meeting on July 10, before calling for a ceasefire in a unanimous declaration.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Doha as part of a Middle East tour to push truce efforts.

He condemned the "atrocious action" in Shejaiya and urged Israel to "exercise maximum restraint".

"Too many innocent people are dying... (and) living in constant fear," Ban told a news conference in Doha.

- AFP

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