The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday to find a political solution so violence like last month's hostilities over the Gaza Strip border might be prevented.
On his first visit to Gaza in four years, Robert Mardini toured areas devasted by Israeli bombardments during the 11 days of fighting, including a road where 42 people were killed.
"It is really heart-breaking to see and to hear about the people who paid the ultimate cost of this escalation - women, children, civilians who were living safely in their apartments and were caught in this rubble that we see behind us," he said.
"I hope this is the last time I am coming to witness yet again the results and the humanitarian impact of yet again another cycle of violence and escalation."
Gaza medical officials said Israeli air strikes killed 253 Palestinians. Rockets and missiles fired by Palestinian factions killed 13 people in Israel.
"What is really needed is political leadership on all sides to avoid that people yet again are in the line of fire because of yet again another round of escalation," Mardini said. "Political leadership to find a sustainable solution that is more sustainable than what we have been witnessing over the past decade and more."
Asked whether he would discuss the prospects of a new prisoners' swap deal, Mardini said the ICRC stood ready to help the parties should there be a deal. "We have repeatedly offered our services as a neutral intermediary, so we will be renewing this offer yet again," he said.
Standing by the rubble of the houses of Kolak family, which lost 22 members in Israeli air strikes, Mardini spoke to some survivors.
"My grandfather died, my father died, his (father's) son died, his grandchild died, a dynasty was martyred," said Wasim Al-Kolak, 31.