While welcoming Monday’s Egyptian-mediated ceasefire deal, the Swiss foreign ministry says it is deeply concerned by the upsurge in violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.
Over the weekend, militants in Gaza and Israeli forces engaged in bloody clashes, with Palestinian factions launching hundreds of rockets towards towns and cities in Israel, which retaliated with more than 250 airstrikes.
But the violence - the most serious border clashes since a spate of fighting in November - appeared to subside early on Monday. Palestinian officials said an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement had been reached at 4.30 am (1.30 GMT) on Monday. The Israeli army lifted protective restrictions on residents in southern Israel, signaling the deal.
In a statement issued on Mondayexternal link, the Swiss foreign ministry welcomed the truce, but expressed its “deep concern” at the recent escalation of violence.
“[Switzerland] condemns in the strongest terms the hundreds of indiscriminate rocket attacks targeting inhabited areas of Israel from the Gaza Strip,” the ministry declared, while calling for an end to the shooting of civilians and “maximum restraint in the response”.
The latest round of fighting erupted three days ago, peaking on Sunday when rockets and missiles from Gaza killed four civilians in Israel - the highest death toll on the Israeli side since the 50-day war in 2014. Israeli strikes killed 19 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians. It was reported that eight militants and a Hamas commander were also killed.
The Israel-Gaza violence appears to follow a pattern established over the past year in which brief exchanges have broken out almost on a monthly basis, usually dying down quickly under Egyptian and United Nations mediation.
In its statement, Switzerland reminded the parties of their obligation to strictly respect international law, in particular international humanitarian law.
It added: “Switzerland calls on the parties to immediately de-escalate and restore calm. To this end, it fully supports the ongoing mediation efforts of Egypt and the United Nations. Switzerland remains convinced that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved by military means. It is committed to a just and lasting peace on the basis of a negotiated two-state solution.”