UNITED NATIONS, United States - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Sunday welcomed the news of a fresh 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, urging the two sides to work towards a longer-term truce.
The latest ceasefire began at 12:01 am on Monday (2101 GMT Sunday), after days of frantic mediation to stem a firestorm of violence that has killed 1,939 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side since July 8.
Ban "expresses his strong hope that this will give the two sides, under Egyptian auspices, another chance to agree on a durable ceasefire for the benefit of all civilian populations and as a starting point to address the underlying grievances on both sides," a statement from his spokesman said.
The UN chief "continues to urge all concerned to work constructively to this end and avoid any steps which would lead to a return to violence."
"The United Nations stands ready to assist in the implementation of an agreement that would consolidate peace and allow for much needed reconstruction and development of Gaza," the statement added.
Egypt, which has acted as a mediator in the conflict, has urged Israel and the Palestinians to use the new truce to "reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire," after an earlier three-day truce ended Friday.
In the gap between ceasefires, warplanes hit more than 170 targets, killing at least 19 people, while the Palestinians fired at least 136 rockets at Israel, of which 93 hit and 13 were shot down, with the rest falling short inside Gaza, the army said.