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Middle East: Annan deplores rising violence, urges parties to halt attacks

Middle East: Annan deplores rising violence, urges parties to halt attacks

Deploring the "ominous escalation" of violence in the Gaza Strip over the past few days, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the parties to halt their attacks and stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to securing peace in the Middle East.

In a statement released by his spokesman, Mr. Annan said he was "concerned by Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip that place Palestinian civilians in harm's way." He voiced deep regret at the loss of life and injury resulting from Saturday night's deadly Israeli incursion into Gaza City. Approximately a dozen people were killed and scores wounded in that incident.

The statement also expressed the Secretary-General's concern about Friday's rocket attacks against Israel launched from the Gaza Strip, and a similar attack earlier today. He called these actions "counterproductive to peace efforts such as the Palestinian ceasefire talks under way in Cairo."

The Secretary-General called on both sides to act with restraint, in keeping with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and urged them to take steps to "break the cycle of violence that has claimed so many Israeli and Palestinian lives in recent years."

Mr. Annan "remains convinced that the only way forward is a process that addresses political, security and economic issues in parallel, as set forth in the Quartet's road map," the spokesman said, referring to the outline for achieving peace put forward by the diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, United States, Russian Federation and European Union.