UN council agrees on demand for Gaza cease-fire

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The UN Security Council has agreed on a statement calling for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas and scheduled a meeting at midnight to adopt it.

The council was meeting as Muslims started celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The push for a cease-fire follows new attacks by Israel and Hamas yesterday despite going back and forth over proposals for another temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting.

The presidential statement, obtained by The Associated Press, says the humanitarian cease-fire would allow for the delivery of urgently needed assistance. It urges Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond."

The statement also calls on the parties "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected cease-fire, based on the Egyptian initiative."

Rwanda, the current council president, announced agreement last night on the presidential statement and the immediate meeting. It was drafted by Jordan, the Arab representative on the UN's most powerful body.

Presidential statements become part of the council's official record and must be approved at a council meeting, where they are almost always read. The statements are a step below Security Council resolutions and require approval of all 15 members.

The statement never names Israel or Hamas. Instead, it expresses "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties.

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