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07/31/2014 04:01 pm ET | Updated Sep 30, 2014

UN Envoy: Israel May Be Required To Take Responsibility For Displaced In Gaza

MAHMUD HAMS via Getty Images

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 (Reuters) - Israel will be required under international law to take responsibility for helping Palestinian civilians if there are any further large-scale displacements from the fighting in Gaza, a top U.N. envoy told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

The United Nations is struggling to cope with a flood of some 220,000 Palestinian civilians into shelters. They have come under fire during three weeks of fighting between Israel and Islamist Hamas militants who dominate Gaza.

Pierre Krähenbühl, the Swiss-born chief of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said the impoverished enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians was facing a precipice, and added that he was alarmed to hear that Israel had warned more neighborhoods in Gaza to evacuate ahead of military action.

"Should further large-scale displacement indeed occur, the occupying power, according to international humanitarian law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people," he told the 15-member Security Council by telephone from Gaza City.

"With as many as 2,500 displaced people residing in (each U.N.) school and an average of 80 people to a classroom, we have exceeded the tolerable limits we can accommodate," he said.

According to the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, an occupying power must "to the fullest extent of the means available to it" ensure public health, hygiene, food and medical supplies for the civilians under occupation.

Eight U.N. employees have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on July 8 after Hamas rocket fire from Gaza intensified. Dozens of people have been killed in attacks on U.N. schools sheltering civilians, while caches of rockets have been found in vacant U.N. schools in Gaza on three occasions.

"The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe," U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council via a video link. "We have all watched in horror the desperation of children, of civilians as they have come under attack."

She said 80 percent of the more than 1,300 Palestinians killed were civilians, including 251 children, while three Israeli civilians and 56 Israeli soldiers had died. Amos, a former British minister, said nearly a quarter of the Palestinian population in Gaza were displaced.

"The relief effort is stretched," Amos said. "Until a longer-term ceasefire is agreed, we need more humanitarian pauses to enable us to reach those in need."

After meeting behind closed doors for more than four hours following the briefing, the Security Council reiterated its call for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire."

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the council debated a statement to condemn the deadly attacks on U.N. schools, the rockets hidden in vacant schools and the deaths of U.N. staff, but could not reach agreement.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour accused Israel of carrying out a genocide, while Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor accused Hamas - blacklisted as a terrorist group by many Western countries - of using civilians as human shields. (Additional reporting by Mirjam Donath; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Paul Simao)

08/08/2014 2:47 PM EDT

White House Concerned By Renewed Fighting

From Reuters:

The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.

"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.

08/08/2014 1:42 PM EDT

Official: 5 Palestinians Killed In Gaza

Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.

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The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

08/08/2014 9:23 AM EDT

Palestinian Delegation Says Gaza Talks Will Continue

From Reuters:

Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.

"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."

Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.

08/08/2014 9:13 AM EDT

Egypt: Agreement Close In Gaza Talks

Reuters reports:

Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

08/08/2014 3:58 AM EDT

Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza Resume

08/08/2014 3:02 AM EDT

Cease-Fire Ends With New Rocket Attacks

A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.

The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.

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08/06/2014 2:46 PM EDT

Official: Israel Agrees To Extend Ceasefire

From Reuters:

Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.

Hamas had no immediate comment.

08/06/2014 2:12 PM EDT

IDF: Rocket Sirens Were False Alarm

08/06/2014 1:18 PM EDT

Report: Rocket Sirens Sound At Gaza Border

ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.

08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT

Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect

Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.

Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.

Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.

The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.

The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.

Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.

Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.