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UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomes Gaza, Israel ceasefire after 11 days of violence

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday, halting a bruising 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip

UN chief Antonio Guterres UN chief Antonio Guterres

UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel after 11 days of deadly hostilities and stressed that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to start a "serious dialogue" to address the root causes of the conflict.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday, halting a bruising 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip. I welcome the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, after 11 days of deadly hostilities. I extend my deepest condolences to the victims of the violence and their loved ones, Guterres said as the ceasefire was announced.

As of May 19, the conflict had claimed the lives of at least 208 Palestinians, including 60 children, and injured thousands more, Secretary General had said adding that the continued indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas and other militant groups towards population centres in Israel, resulting in at least 12 fatalities including two children, and hundreds of injuries, is also unacceptable.

Earlier in the day, in his address to the UN General Assembly meeting on the Situation in the Middle East and Palestine, Guterres had expressed shock over the continued air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza. Guterres appealed to the international community to work with the United Nations on developing an integrated, robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions.

I stress that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict. Gaza is an integral part of the future Palestinian state and no effort should be spared to bring about real national reconciliation that ends the division, Guterres said.

The UN chief underscored the United Nations' deep commitment to working with Israelis and Palestinians, and with its international and regional partners, including through the Middle East Quartet, to return to the path of meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and allow for the realisation of a two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, UN resolutions, international law and mutual agreements.

Calling on all sides to observe the ceasefire, Guterres commended Egypt and Qatar for the efforts carried out, in close coordination with the UN, to help restore calm to Gaza and Israel. Responding to a question on what the next steps should be after the ceasefire announcement, Guterres said it will be very important to stabilize the ceasefire.

"I think it will be very important to have a robust programme of humanitarian aid and recovery for Gaza. And I think it will be very important to revitalize the peace process, to restart the peace process in order to have a two-State solution. Hamas and Israel have been engaged in some form of conflict since the Palestinian group was founded in the 1980s.

The conflict this time began as Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem in response to several police raids on the Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from their homes in the city.

Also read: Over 3,200 rockets from Gaza wreak havoc on Israeli cities in latest war