UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Friday condemned "in the strongest terms" Hamas' violation of a mutually agreed ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, urging Israelis and Palestinians to exercise maximum restraint and return to the ceasefire which began earlier in the day.
"The secretary-general condemns in the strongest terms the reported violation by Hamas of the mutually agreed humanitarian ceasefire which commenced this morning," said a statement read out to the press here by Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
"He is shocked and profoundly disappointed by these developments."
"The secretary-general notes that the UN has no independent means to verify exactly what happened," the statement said. " According to the latest reports, two IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers were killed and one taken captive after the humanitarian ceasefire came into effect."
"This would constitute a grave violation of the ceasefire, and one that is likely to have very serious consequences for the people of Gaza, Israel and beyond," the statement said.
On Thursday, the UN chief and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced an "unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza, which was set to commence at 8 a.m. local time on Friday and would last for 72 hours unless extended. "During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place," they said in a joint statement.
The UN representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, received promises that all parties have agreed to the ceasefire.
Nearly four weeks of conflict have left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and 6,000 injured, the United Nations reported. More than 80 percent of those killed have been civilians; 251 children. Israel has faced rocket fire, and the hostilities have resulted in the deaths of three civilians and 56 soldiers, with dozens injured.
The planned ceasefire between Israel and Hamas crumbled hours after it went into effect earlier Friday, with Israel resuming full operations in the Gaza Strip following an attack that reportedly left two soldiers dead and another abducted.
At least 40 people were killed and 150 injured in Gaza on Friday, a Palestinian health official said.
"Such moves call into question the credibility of Hamas' assurances to the United Nations," the statement said. "The secretary-general demands the immediate and unconditional release of the captured soldier."
"The secretary-general urges both sides to show maximum restraint and return to the agreed 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that tragically lasted such a brief period of time," the statement said. "He also urges those with influence over the parties to do everything to convince them to observe the humanitarian ceasefire. "
"The secretary-general is deeply concerned about the resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza and the killing of over 70 Palestinians this morning," the statement said. "Instead of giving both sides, especially Gazan civilians, a much needed reprieve to let them attend to their injured, bury their dead and repair vital infrastructure, this breach of the ceasefire is now leading to a renewed escalation."
More than 80 percent of Gaza's population of 1.8 million -- more than half of them children under the age of 18 -- were already dependent on humanitarian aid before the outbreak of hostilities.
The United Nations estimates that up to 440,000 people in Gaza are now displaced, almost 24 percent of the population. More than 240,000 are being hosted in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while others are seeking refuge wherever they can; in government buildings, hospital grounds or with families and friends.
Also on Friday, Jeffrey Feltman, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, told reporters here that it was tragic that "the ceasefire seems to have lasted maybe 90 minutes this morning. "
The opportunity was lost to bring peace and stability to the Gaza Strip after the reported truce violation, Feltman added.
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 1 (Xinhua)