UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon Saturday voiced his extreme concern and disappointment at the Israeli invasion into Gaza, and called for "an immediate end" to the military operation, a UN statement said.
The statement, issued by the spokesperson for the UN chief, said that the secretary-general "called for an immediate end to the ground operation, and asked that Israel do all possible to ensure the protection of civilians and that humanitarian assistance is able to reach those in need."
"The secretary-general has spoken with (Israeli) Prime Minister Olmert and conveyed his extreme concern and disappointment," the statement said.
"He is convinced and alarmed that this escalation will inevitably increase the already heavy suffering of the affected civilian populations," the statement said.
"The secretary-general reiterates his call for an immediate cessation of all violence, and urges regional and international partners to exert all possible influence to bring about an immediate end to the bloodshed and suffering," the statement said.
Ban made the remarks as the UN Security Council scheduled an emergent meeting on Gaza on Saturday evening hours after the Israelis began the invasion.
"Today's developments complicate the efforts of the Quartet and others to end the violence," the statement said, referring to the efforts by the diplomatic group in search of peace in the Middle East, which groups the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States.
(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2009)