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The UN pressed Israel on Wednesday to implement a security council resolution which calls for the reopening of crossings into the devastated Gaza Strip.

UN undersecretary-general for political affairs B Lynn Pascoe said: ‘The intolerable situation at Gaza’s crossings remains the key impediment to bringing help and hope to the people of Gaza.’

Israel launched a 22-day air and ground offensive against the densely populated coastal enclave on December 27, ostensibly in an effort to halt rocket fire on its southern communities and arms smuggling into Gaza.

It caused an estimated £1.4 billion in damage to infrastructure and homes and killed up to 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians.

Ten Israeli soldiers died and three Israeli civilians were killed in rocket attacks.

Mr Pascoe pointed out that ‘very little concrete progress has been made on key issues’ outlined in January’s UN security council resolution 1860, which calls for a durable ceasefire, free access for relief workers and the re-opening of crossings for the unimpeded delivery of goods and construction materials.

Israel has banned the entry of building materials, spare parts and other industrial goods that are essential to rebuild the territory.

And the quality and quantity of food and other imports allowed into Gaza ‘are insufficient compared to needs,’ warned Mr Pascoe.

Top UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry was in Gaza on Wednesday and his meetings with business leaders and representatives of civil society ‘have underscored the desperate need for a new approach to Gaza based on a ceasefire, open crossings, rejuvenation of the private sector and Palestinian reconciliation,’ Mr Pascoe declared.

‘Without this, the many unresolved issues combined with the absence of an active negotiations track and continued suffering could portend a quick return to violence,’ he warned.

Mr Pascoe called on the so-called diplomatic quartet – the UN, US, European Union and Russia – and the rest of the international community to ‘act with unity of purpose to help stabilise Gaza and reinvigorate the peace process.’

Elsewhere, Israeli soldiers stormed the Askar and Balata refugee camps east of Nablus on Wednesday night.

They seized seven men and placed sacks on their heads before whisking them off to unknown locations.

Troops also entered Jenin and deployed patrols in the city.

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