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Pahad slams UN for slow response to Gaza

Aziz Pahad will lead a team to the Middle East to convey SA’s concerns about violence in Gaza.

Former South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/GAZA - Former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad has criticised the United Nations (UN) for being slow to respond to the crisis in Gaza.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane made the announcement on Tuesday that Pahad would lead a team to the Middle East to convey South Africa's concerns about the escalation of violence in that region.

Fighting has intensified in the wake of an Israeli ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

Pahad says too many lives have been lost in the conflict and the violence has reached unacceptable levels.

"I'm very worried that the United Nations has been so slow in reacting to this situation that is now reaching unacceptable proportions of violence."

More than 600 Palestinians are reported to have been killed, while Israel says it's lost 27 soldiers and two civilians.

Meanwhile, Israel has continued to pound targets across the Gaza Strip with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying no ceasefire is near.

The operation carried on yesterday as top US and UN diplomats pursued talks aimed at halting the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip also landed near Israel's main airport, wounding one Israeli and prompting all us and some European and Canadian airlines to cancel flights to Tel Aviv.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon met with Netanyahu with a blunt message.

Moon said the two sides should cease with fighting and seek ways to have dialogue.

"My message for Israelis and Palestinians is the same, stop fighting and start talking."

ABBAS-LED PALESTINIAN BODY BACKS HAMAS TRUCE

The Palestinian decision-making body led by US-backed President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday endorsed demands by Hamas for halting Gaza hostilities with Israel, a closing of ranks that may help Egyptian-mediated truce efforts.

Hamas, the Gaza Strip's leaders, and other armed factions had baulked at Cairo's offer, saying they wanted assurances of relief from an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and other concessions.

The dispute was further complicated by distrust between Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamas.

In a move that could effectively turn Abbas into the main interlocutor for a Gaza truce, his umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) on Wednesday formally supported core conditions set by the Hamas-led fighters.

"The Gaza demands of stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade in all its forms are the demands of the entire Palestinian people and they represent the goal that the Palestinian leadership has dedicated all its power to achieve," senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said in Ramallah, the hub city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Abbas is based.

Signalling that Abbas, too, sought a staggered cessation of hostilities, the Palestinian leader's Fatah faction on Tuesday proposed a truce followed by five days of negotiations on terms.

There was no immediate response to the PLO statement from Hamas or Israel, which pressed the Gaza offensive it began on 8 July after a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes.

Additional reporting by Reuters.