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By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, July 12 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council called on Saturday for a ceasefire in hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis and expressed serious concern about the welfare and protection of civilians on both sides.
"The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire," the 15-member body said in a statement.
It also expressed "serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides" and called for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.
Israel rushed an eighth missile interceptor battery into service on Saturday to counter stronger-than-expected rocket fire from Gaza as the military pounded positions in the Palestinian enclave for a fifth day.
The most recent hostilities were sparked three weeks ago by the kidnapping of three Jewish students in the occupied West Bank, who were later found dead. Then a teenage Palestinian was kidnapped and his burned body found in a Jerusalem forest.
The United States, a close ally of Israel, and Jordan were unable to reach agreement on a Security Council statement on the crisis earlier this week, diplomats said. Council statements have to be agreed by consensus.
Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour accused the council of dragging its feet and said Saturday's statement had only been agreed after the Arab Group, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement threatened to push for a resolution on the issue.
The Security Council statement also expressed "support for the resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians with the aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on the two-state solution". (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Kevin Liffey)