JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Israel’s expanded operation in Gaza a “genocide.”
“It’s genocide — the killing of entire families is genocide by Israel against our Palestinian people,” he told a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the French news agency AFP reported.
“What’s happening now is a war against the Palestinian people as a whole and not against” terrorist groups, Abbas said at the meeting held to discuss responses to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, according to AFP. “We know that Israel is not defending itself, it is defending settlements, its main project.”
Abbas said the Palestinians had approached Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to convince Israel to halt its operation.
The Palestinian Maan news agency reported early Wednesday evening that the death toll from Israel’s Gaza strikes had climbed to 39. Maan reported that a rocket killed a woman and her two young children in their home and that two other children are missing.
A statement read Wednesday on behalf of Ban at a special meeting of the U.N.’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People called on Israel and the Palestinians to “abide by their obligations under international law and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation.”
“It is critical that the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, with the support of the international community, do their utmost to find their way back to meaningful negotiations. Any action to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations must be avoided,” he said.
Ban also reiterated his condemnation of the murders of three Israeli teens and the alleged revenge killing of a Palestinian teen.
The meeting was convened to recognize the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s opinion that said the security fence built in the West Bank is contrary to international law.
In a statement issued Wednesday after security consultations at the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command headquarters in Beersheba, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a decision had been made “to further increase the assault on Hamas and the terrorist organizations in Gaza.”
“Our military is strong, the home front is steadfast and our people are united,” Netanyahu said. “This is our response to the terrorist organizations that attack us.”