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Opposition parties back Zuma on Gaza decision

Jacob Zuma told Parliament there can be no military solution to tensions in Gaza.

Jacob Zuma told Parliament there can be no military solution to tensions in Gaza. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN/NEW YORK - Opposition parties in Parliament have backed President Jacob Zuma's call for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Zuma on Wednesday told the National Assembly there can be no military solution to lingering tensions in the region.

"There will never be a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only solution lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties."

Zuma was careful however not to apportion blame, urging both sides to heed calls for an immediate ceasefire.

"Like all peace loving people the world over, we are shocked and dismayed by the unprecedented levels of violence and tragic loss of lives in Gaza."

According to reports on Wednesday, at least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have been killed in 15 days of fighting.

At the same time, as civilian casualties rise in Gaza, the UN Human Rights Council has agreed to a probe into alleged war crimes.

The UN body will launch an independent inquiry into purported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is currently in the region hoping to bolster support for a ceasefire.

Meeting in an emergency session today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution agreeing to send the investigative team by a vote of 29 countries in favour, strongly condemned the failure of Israel to end its prolonged occupation of the area.

The Council condemned in the strongest terms the "widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms" arising from the Israeli military operations since 13 June.

The council is just another body adding its voice to the call for an immediate ceasefire.

Israel launched its offensive on 8 July to halt missile salvoes by Hamas and its allies, struggling under the weight of an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade and angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank.

After failing to halt the resistant barrage through days of aerial bombardment, Israel sent ground troops into the Gaza Strip last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas's missile stores and destroy a vast, underground network of tunnels.

Meanwhile, Gaza fighting raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory as US Secretary of State John Kerry said efforts to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas had made some progress.

US aviation authorities lifted a ban on flights to Tel Aviv which had been in force for two days, prompted by rocket salvoes out of the Gaza Strip, but many other global airlines were avoiding the Jewish state.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, speaking in Qatar, praised the group's fighters, whom he said had made gains against Israel and said he supported a humanitarian truce but a ceasefire would only be acceptable in exchange for easing Gazans' plight.

"Let's agree first on the demands and on implementing them and then we can agree on the zero hour for a ceasefire... We will not accept any proposal that does not lift the blockade... We do not desire war and we do not want it to continue but we will not be broken by it," he said.

The war is extracting a heavy toll on impoverished Gaza, with Palestinian officials saying that at least 475 houses had been totally destroyed by Israeli fire and 2,644 partially damaged.

Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals had also suffered varying degrees of destruction.

Additional reporting by Reuters