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US ups pressure on Israel as UN demands Gaza truce

The Security Council resolution came during a lull in fighting in Gaza early Monday, the beginning of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, after a day of strikes and counter-strikes.

A military spokeswoman told AFP that since midnight no Gaza rockets had hit Israel, and the Jewish state had carried out no strikes in the Palestinian enclave.

The 15-member Council released a statement urging a truce during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

It expressed "strong support" for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire".

It also voiced "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".

At least 1,032 Palestinians have died in the fighting as well as 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.

Obama, too, voiced concern at the civilian toll, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday in which he urged an immediate ceasefire.

Obama: Immediately end hostilities

According to a White House statement, the US president "made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement" brokered by Egypt.

He also stressed the need to "ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarisation of Gaza," while reiterating "serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives."

The two sides had observed a 12-hour humanitarian pause on Saturday, giving Gaza medics a chance to pull bodies from rubble they had not been able to reach under fire.

But Hamas rocket fire prompted Israel to abandon an extension of that truce Sunday, and subsequent Hamas calls for another ceasefire were ignored by both sides.

During Sunday, fighting renewed apace, as Israel pounded Gaza with aerial, naval and artillery bombardments and Hamas rained more rockets down on Israeli territory.

A controversial incident on Thursday when a UN school acting as a shelter was shelled, killing 15 people, drew fierce condemnation from Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

The Israeli army confirmed on Sunday it had hit the school, but said it was a "single errant mortar" round, denying that people were killed "as a result of (army) operational activity".

Meanwhile Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry was still working for Israel and Hamas to agree to further halts in the bloodshed ahead of hoped for Egypt-led peace talks, a US official said.

Israel rejected a Kerry-proposed ceasefire last week and Hamas has resisted truce efforts by Cairo after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and banned the Muslim Brotherhood, a Hamas ally.

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Rwandan U.N. Ambassador and current president of the Security Council Eugene Richard Gasana speaks during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the worsening situation in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, Monday, July 28.

(AP)

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