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GAZA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel for using "excessive" force in the Gaza Strip and demanded a halt to its offensive after troops killed 61 people on the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the 1980s.
Addressing an emergency session of the Security Council in New York after four days of fighting in which 96 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, Ban also called on Gaza's Islamist militants to stop firing rockets.
The 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into the blockaded, 45 km (30-mile) sliver of coast, enjoyed a relative respite early on Sunday from Israeli air strikes and raids. Two Israeli soldiers died in a ground assault on Saturday. An Israeli civilian was killed by a rocket in a border town on Wednesday.
"While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children ... I call on Israel to cease such attacks," said Ban.