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The US Secretary Normal requires a direct ceasefire in Gaza as civilian deaths rise

Palestinians inspect their home after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2021.

Said Khatib | AFP | Getty Images

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the violent conflict between militants from Israel and Gaza on Sunday "extremely appalling" and called for an immediate ceasefire as the worst outbreak of fighting in years lasts seven days and weighs heavily on civilians.

"This latest round of violence only continues the cycles of death, destruction and despair, and pushes all hopes for coexistence and peace further into the horizon," Guterres said during a meeting of the United States Security Council.

"The fight has to stop. It has to stop immediately. Missiles and mortars on one side and air and artillery bombardments on the other have to stop," he said. "I appeal to all parties to heed this call."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that there would be no immediate end to the Israeli campaign against militant groups.

Israeli air strikes early Sunday killed at least 42 Palestinians, including 10 children, in Gaza and raised the death toll in Gaza to at least 188 since the fighting began on Monday, according to health officials in the Gaza Strip. In Israel, 10 people were killed in rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

"We will do everything we can to restore order. It will take time," said Netanyahu during an interview on CBS "Face the Nation". "I hope it won't be long. It's not right now."

A Palestinian mourns the bodies of a member of the Kawlak family who were killed in an overnight Israeli air strike in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City as they prepared for their funeral in front of Al-Shifa Hospital on May 16, 2021.

Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images

Israel and Hamas, which govern the Gaza Strip, have both vowed to continue the cross-border fire after Israel targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed some media offices. Hamas fired 120 rockets overnight to destroy the al-Jalaa building, although many were intercepted.

"Our campaign against the terrorist organizations continues with full force," said Netanyahu in a televised address. "We are now acting as long as necessary to restore peace and quiet to you, the citizens of Israel."

Netanyahu argued that the Israelis had received information that Hamas military offices were located in the Gaza Strip, but had not produced any evidence. "It's a perfectly legitimate target," he said of the building, adding that the military had warned civilians against the evacuation.

The AP condemned the attack and demanded evidence from Israel that the building had Hamas offices. "We had no indication that Hamas was in the building or was active in the building," the AP said in a statement.

People rescue a wounded child from rubble as search and rescue work continues on rubble of a building after Israeli army air strikes struck buildings in the al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, Gaza on May 16, 2021.

Ashraf Amra | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Guterres said the United States would actively use all sides for an immediate ceasefire. "The fighting could drag Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region," said Guterres.

"It has the potential to spark an unstoppable security and humanitarian crisis and further fuel extremism not just in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but throughout the region, potentially creating a new place of dangerous instability," he said.

The US ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield did not call for a ceasefire Sunday but said the US would offer assistance if the parties move towards a ceasefire.

"The United States has made it clear that we are ready to provide our support and good offices if the parties seek a ceasefire because we believe that Israelis and Palestinians alike have the right to live in safety," Greenfield told im UN Security Council meeting.

President Joe Biden spoke to Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday to address the worsening conflict. Biden's envoy Hady Amr also arrived in Israel on Friday to de-escalate the fighting.

An air bomb hits Jala Tower during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement on May 15, 2021.

Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images

The president has reiterated his support for Israel's right to self-defense against missile attacks, but Abbas shared concerns that "innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives in the ongoing violence," according to an ad from das White House.

Biden also reiterated on Saturday a "strong commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as the best way to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," according to Abbas' appeal.

Despite diplomatic efforts to end the conflict and avoid more civilian casualties, the fighting continues.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-C.A., Chairman of the U.S. Intelligence Committee, called for a ceasefire during a Sunday morning interview on CBS.

"I think the government needs to put more pressure on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence," said Schiff.

– Reuters contributed to the coverage

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