U.N. Security Council Calls for Immediate Cease-fire Between Israel and Hamas

Israeli soldiers sitting on a tank hold their position on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip, on July 22 , 2014, as smoke billows from the coastal Palestinian enclave following an Israeli army ground operation to destroy tunnels reportedly used by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel. The UN chief and Washington's top diplomat are holding a flurry of meetings in Cairo to push for an end to two weeks of violence in Gaza that has killed sp far 585 Palestinians. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ        (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Sunday night, just ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The “lesser eid” marks the end of sun-up to sundown fasts observed by believers during the month of Ramadan. In its statement, signed by all 15 members, the council suggested “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire, allowing for the delivery of urgently needed assistance.”

Drafted by Jordan, the statement looks toward a lasting peace past the Muslim holiday, and “calls on parties to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative.”

A long-term truce is complicated not only because Israel and Hamas have difficult-to-reconcile demands, but also by the fact that there aren't many actors in a position to negotiate directly between the two of them. "The United States does not deal directly with Hamas. And the countries with the closest ties, Qatar and Turkey, have fraught relations with Egypt, whose cease-fire plan has provided the broad framework for Mr. [John] Kerry’s efforts," Michael R. Gordon wrote in the New York Times

Israel and Hamas had agreed to a brief humanitarian cease-fire on Saturday, but that attempt ended on Sunday when Israeli officials said Hamas had continued firing rockets into Israel. Yet according to Reuters, attacks on both sides slowly subsided on Sunday, “suggesting a de facto truce might be taking shape ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials are fighting back against the claim that Israeli fire killed 15 civilians at a U.N.-run school in Gaza. According to an army investigation into the incident, “one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard whilst it was empty of people” as troops were combating militants firing anti-tank missiles.

Palestinian sources, on the other hand, claim the attack killed at least 15, mostly women and children. As the New York Times’ Isabel Kershner and Ben Hubbard put it, “It was not immediately possible to reconcile the accounts.”