The UN Security Council called on Israel and Hamas to uphold a ceasefire agreement on Wednesday and commended the efforts of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and others for brokering the truce.
The 15-member council said in a statement it "deplored the loss of civilian lives resulting from this situation and reiterated the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and their protection in according with international humanitarian law."
Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement agreed earlier on Wednesday to an Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire to halt the eight-day conflict around the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 162 Palestinians and five Israelis.
"The members of the council called on the parties to uphold the agreement and to act seriously to implement its provisions in good faith," it said. "The members of the council strongly commend the efforts of Egyptian President Mursi and others to achieve the ceasefire."
It also praised the efforts of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who visited the region this week, and called on the international community to provide emergency aid, including food and medical supplies, for Palestinians in Gaza.
"We have to put an end to the options of war and to open the gate for the option of peace, ending the occupation and (bringing) independence for our state," Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, told reporters.
He said President Mahmoud Abbas would visit New York next week as the Palestinians seek an upgrade of its observer status at the United Nations from that of an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognising Palestinian statehood.
UN diplomats said a vote on the Palestinian request was tentatively scheduled for November 29. A senior Western diplomat said the Palestinians would easily secure 120 to 130 votes in the 193-nation General Assembly, which would ensure the success of their upgraded status at the United Nations.
Israel and the United States have made clear they would oppose the upgrade, which would give the Palestinians the right to join bodies like the International Criminal Court, where it could file legal complaints against Israel.
"The idea of going to the United Nations and avoiding bilateral negotiations with Israel is wrong," Israel's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Haim Waxman said of the Palestinian bid.
"The entire international community ... should look at what has happened in the last week and think again because we have seen a Palestinian authority in Gaza," he told reporters.
Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but maintained control over its borders. The United Nations says it remains an occupied territory, along with the West Bank.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from the Western-backed Abbas in 2007 in a brief but bloody war with his Fatah movement. The Palestine Liberation Organisation, led by Abbas, wants the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem for an independent state.
© Thomson Reuters 2012