UN's Ban Calls Gaza Suffering 'Heartbreaking'
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has become the first international leader to visit the Gaza Strip following Israel's 22-day offensive. Israeli troops continue to pull out of the battered enclave, where Palestinian medical officials say 1,300 people died in the assault.
The U.N. chief got a first-hand look at the devastation left by three weeks of Israeli air and ground attacks on Hamas targets.
He called for Israel and Hamas to stick to the fragile cease-fire they began Sunday and urged them to exercise restraint. Mr. Ban did not meet with Hamas officials.
The cease-fire is holding, but there were more signs the dispute between Israel and Hamas is far from settled.
In calling its cease-fire, Israel demanded Hamas not fire rockets into its territory and refrain from re-arming. Hamas said Israel must pull out all of its troops and open Gaza's borders or face new attacks.
Israeli troops and tanks continue to withdraw, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni suggested Israel is not prepared to lift its blockade of the Strip.
Livni said Israel opposes any dialogue with Hamas and does not consider the group a legitimate organization, but rather a terrorist group. She said the only thing that Israel needs to negotiate with Hamas is the release of Gil'ad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been held prisoner in Gaza since before the assault.
Hamas' military infrastructure was severely damaged in the Israeli offensive. But the group appeared to retain some support among Gaza residents. Hundreds of people gathered in Gaza City claiming victory for Hamas, and urging international recognition of the Islamic militant group.
Others continued sifting through the rubble of their homes and businesses. Early estimates from officials inside Gaza say damage estimates reach nearly $2 billion, with thousands of homes destroyed.
After seeing the devastation firsthand, Mr. Ban called the scenes heartbreaking. He called the destruction "shocking and alarming."
Mr. Ban spoke against the backdrop of a U.N. building that was still smoldering from an Israeli hit last week.