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Quartet calls for immediate cease-fire in Gaza
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The diplomatic group in search of peace in the Middle East, or Quartet, Tuesday held a meeting on the situation in Gaza and southern Israel, and called for "an immediate cease-fire that would be fully respected," a conference readout said.

"They called on all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies," it said.

Quartet groups the United Nations, the European Union (EU), Russia and the United States.

"They agreed on the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to continue on the road to peace," it said.

Participating in the teleconference were UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Javier Solana, the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European commissioner for external relations, Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, and Quartet Representative Tony Blair, the statement said.

"They intend to remain in close touch," it added.

The Quartet teleconference came as Israel hit the Gaza Strip with more air strikes on Tuesday and both Israel and Hamas rejected any notion of cease-fire soon. As the conflict passed its third day, there seems to be no quick end to the largest Israeli attacks on Gaza in decades.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that hundreds of wounded people in Gaza hospitals face a surge in preventable deaths due to the lack of medical supplies, and the UN agency called for an immediate end to hostilities and urged Israel to ensure immediate provision of fuel and critical life-saving and trauma care supplies.

"Hundreds of wounded people, including women, children and elderly, lie in hospitals that already lack basic supplies," WHO said of Israel's air strikes against Hamas, in which more than 300 people were killed and many hundreds more wounded.

Negotiations with the Israelis are under way to guarantee the passage of urgent medical supplies, the agency said, adding that it was also coordinating with other UN agencies, donors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to ensure aid reach those most in need.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), in a statement issued here, voiced its deep concern over the impact of the current violence on youngsters and urged all parties to abide by their international legal obligation to ensure that children be protected and receive essential humanitarian supplies and support. More than half of the population in Gaza are children.

(Xinhua News Agency December 31, 2008)

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