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UN chief says Israelis and Palestinians must avoid war, urges immediate cease-fire

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says it is more urgent than ever to avoid another Israeli-Palestinian war and is urging both leaders to show statesmanship and agree to an immediate cease-fire.

The U.N. chief, addressing an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, said Thursday the threat of an Israeli ground offensive and "an all-out escalation" in the Gaza Strip is preventable only if Hamas stops firing rockets and mortars into Israel.

Ban again condemned Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Islamic Jihad for a barrage of rockets and mortars. But in a clear message to Israel, Ban said "the excessive use of force and endangering of civilian lives are also intolerable."

The secretary-general called for "bold thinking and creative ideas" and urged the world to accelerate efforts to immediately end the conflict.