India has said the current crisis in Gaza can be resolved through a negotiated political settlement and dialogue remains the "only viable option" to effectively address issues confronting the region and its people.
"We endorse completely Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's statement that a crisis such as the one we see in Gaza can only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement with the required political will and leadership of the negotiating parties," India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Asoke Mukerji told the UN General Assembly.
A 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into effect on Tuesday and has brought relief to millions on both sides after one month of fighting killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.
Mukerji said India followed the current situation in Gaza with a "great deal of concern" and supports all efforts to sustain the ceasefire. He said India believes that a sustainable ceasefire will be linked to the resumption of the peace process for a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue.
"India remains firmly convinced that dialogue remains the only viable option that can effectively address the issues confronting the region and its people," he said.
The special session was convened on Wednesday amid the 72-hour ceasefire, which has been in effect since August 5.
Addressing the 193-nation General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations is ready to help rebuild Gaza for the last time as the "senseless cycle of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel must end."He said both the Israelis and the Palestinians are putting all of the international community's citizens "always at unease and concerned, looking helplessly at many people being killed."
"Do we have to continue like this: build, destroy, and build and destroy? We will build again - but this must be the last time to rebuild. This must stop now. They must go back to the negotiating table. We must not repeat this periodically," he said.
India, as a founder member of the UN, strongly deplores any act of violence or threat of violence directed towards the world body, Mukerji said. "We support strongly call for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of such acts. This is the only way to uphold the credibility of the United Nations, based on the rule of law," he said.
He said India had consistently held that the blockade of Gaza that adversely affects essential services, economic activities and infrastructure development must be lifted.
"We reiterate that this blockade and the issue of increasing settlement activities need to be addressed to take forward the peace process to reach a mutually acceptable political solution," Mukerji said.
He reiterated India's support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue based on the relevant UN resolutions, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Roadmap resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.
India's deep association and continuing commitment to Palestine is rooted in the country's modern history, Mukerji added.
The General Assembly session was also briefed by Ban's special envoy in the region Robert Serry, deputy chief of UN humanitarian efforts Kyung-wha Kang, world body's top human rights official Navi Pillay and head of the UN agency charged with assisting Palestinian refugees across the Middle East Pierre Krahenbuhl.
Serry is currently in Cairo where Egyptian mediators are shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian representatives to negotiate a longer pause to the fighting that is currently on hold for at least 72-hours.
Terming the current crisis "a symptom of our collective failure", he said to address the underlying causes of the conflict, blockade on Gaza should end and Israel's legitimate security needs be addressed. "The escalation just behind us, coupled with the tense situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is a warning of the bleak reality before us if we do not counter the slide towards a one-state reality on the ground and restore hope and prospect for a two-state solution," Serry said.
Speaking from Gaza, Krahenbuhl said 90 of the agency's premises were hit during the conflict. He said that UN Relief and Works Agency had asked for
investigations to be carried out regarding the attacks on agency-run schools that had been sheltering displaced Gazans.
Pillay stressed the need to investigate wrongdoings and hold those responsible to account for crimes committed during the current crisis and the military operations in 2008-2009 and 2012.
Speaking from Geneva, she said that the commission of inquiry established by the Human Rights Council last month would present its findings next March and its conclusions on what occurred in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and subsequent recommendations, should be carefully considered. "There can be no true security without justice and respect for human rights," she said.
"Adherence to international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and ensuring accountability for violations, are essential pre-requisites for any lasting peace," she said.
According to the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, the conflict exasperated an already desperate situation after seven years of blockade, with unemployment at 43 per cent, food insecurity at 57 per cent and where approximately 80 per cent of the population -- over half of whom are children -- are dependent on external assistance.
The UN and partners have appealed for $ 367 million dollars to address immediate needs which range from medicines, ambulances to water and power plants repairs, besides food and shelter.
Image: A Palestinian man carries children in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting, in Gaza City. Photograph: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters