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UN chief urges Israeli leader to take courageous steps toward peace

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to take what he called "courageous steps" toward peace. Ban also condemned a wave of Palestinian attacks, which he called "terrorism."

On his 11th visit to Israel as secretary-general - expected to be his last before leaving office at the end of the year - Ban reiterated calls to keep open the possibility of a two-state solution.

Ban also acknowledged the threats facing Israel. "But we must not allow difficulties to become excuses for inaction," he said in a statement read alongside Netanyahu at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem.

Ban meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas later Tuesday in Ramallah.

A Palestinian man walking at the port in Gaza City on March 18, 2016.

A Palestinian man walking at the port in Gaza City on March 18, 2016.

"I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality or perpetual conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of the Israelis and Palestinian people," he said.

"We cannot ignore key underlying causes of violence: growing Palestinian anger, the paralysis of the peace process, the nearly a half-century of occupation," he added.

"Stabbings, vehicle rammings and shootings have only one name: terrorism," said Ban, referring to a series of knife attacks by Palestinians in recent months.

A political solution needed

Ban specifically mentioned a recent

attack in Tel Aviv

, but said security measures would not be enough. "You need a political horizon," he said. "You need a leadership that is committed to peace and a just and a lasting solution."

Ban also visited the Gaza Strip, saying that the blockade of the Palestinian territory "suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts."

"It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability," he said. "Today, some 70 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, and over half of Gaza's youth have little to no job prospects or horizons of hope," he said.

Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fought three wars since 2008, and Israel says the blockade is needed to keep out materials that could be used for military purposes.

Watch video 03:51

Tim Sebastian talks to Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (16.03.2016)

jbh/kl (AFP, AP)

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