UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Israel on Thursday that the death toll from fighting in the Gaza Strip had reached an "unbearable point".
During a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Ban called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in accordance with UN Resolution 1860 and the reopening of the crossings.
The UN chief added that Israel's residents have a right to live "without fear" and called for the cessation of the Palestinian rocket attacks on the Jewish state. He also criticized Hamas gunmen's use of private homes and facilities.
Destruction in Gaza (Photo: AP)
Livni told the secretary-general that Israel was forced to launch the military offensive to protect its citizens, adding that Israel must seek an agreement with moderate elements while continuing to fight terror and Hamas. She said the Islamist group cannot be considered legitimate until it accepts the international community's conditions, which include recognizing Israel's right to exist.
"The Israeli civilian population has been living under the threat of rocket attacks for the past eight years. We exercised restraint, but there comes a time when a country has to say enough is enough. Hamas is not even considering accepting the international community's demands," the FM said.
"The ceasefire was breached by Hamas on a daily basis; they took advantage of it to increase the range of their missiles from 20 (12.5 miles) to 50 kilometers (31 miles). Israel is providing humanitarian aid; we understand the international community's concern. But the question is where do we go from here? What is the region's strategical direction? Hamas is a barrier not only to Israel, but also to the establishment of a Palestinian state," she said.
"Hamas is responsible for the loss of life in Gaza and the humanitarian situation there. The battle in the region is not between Israel and the Palestinians, but between moderates and extremists."
The Palestinian death toll from Israel's air-and-ground offensive has risen to at least 1,060, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. A Palestinian rights group said 670 of the dead were civilians.
Thirteen Israelis have been killed - 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rocket fire.