United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appealed to all parties to immediately cease fighting in Gaza and Israel.

International concerns of a protracted conflict are growing after the Israeli military pummeled militant positions in Gaza with artillery fire and air strikes in response to persistent Hamas rocket-fire from the enclave.

The UN Security Council will hold its third meeting in less than a week on Sunday – the first open session after two closed-door meetings failed to produce a Council product despite the violent escalation.

With hostilities entering a fifth day, Israel fired artillery rounds and mounted extensive air strikes against a network of militant tunnels under Gaza dubbed “the Metro” – amid persistent rocket attacks with no signs of it abating.

Guterres says: “We are totally committed to revitalizing the Quartet. We are totally committed to promote all kinds of dialogue by the parties and by other key actors that can be supportive of all the efforts necessary for de-escalation but also for revitalization of the peace process that has been dormant for too much time.”

The UN says more than 200 housing units were destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza with hundreds now seeking shelter in schools.

The death toll in Gaza has risen to over 120 including 31 children while Israel has suffered 8 casualties, including two children.

Spokesperson for the Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric says: “The ongoing military escalation has caused great suffering and destruction. It has claimed scores of civilian lives, including, tragically, many children. The fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole. The parties must allow for mediation efforts to intensify with a view to ending the fighting immediately. The UN is actively involved in such efforts, which are also crucial for delivering much needed humanitarian aid to the affected people in Gaza.”

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has warned that its earlier investigation into possible war crimes committed in Palestinian territories will extend to the current situation.

Outgoing ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda says: “I say that these are events that we are looking at very seriously. We are monitoring also very closely, and I remind that investigation has opened and the evolution of these events could also be something that we look at in the course of our investigations (into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). I think this is just to alert people not to escalate, to be careful and to avoid taking actions that will result in the commission of Rome Statute crimes.”