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Ongoing hostilities in Gaza further fuelling regional instability: UN envoy

June 25, 2024 at 7:34 pm

Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process speaks to press at Security Council stakeout at UN Headquarters on 28 November 2022 [Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process on Tuesday expressed “serious concerns” about the risk of escalation in the region, particularly between Israel and Hezbollah along the Blue Line, Anadolu Agency reports.

“I reiterate the Secretary-General’s (Antonio Guterres) concern that further military escalation will only guarantee more suffering, more devastation to communities in Lebanon and Israel, and more potentially catastrophic consequences for the region,” Tor Wennesland told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

He encouraged all sides to “immediately” take urgent steps to de-escalate the situation.

“The ongoing hostilities in Gaza are further fuelling regional instability,” he said, adding there must be an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Wennesland underlined that the “devastating impact” of the hostilities on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, and the “unprecedented humanitarian crisis remain deeply alarming”.

READ: 96% of Gazans face extreme levels of hunger: Report

“The scope of death and destruction in Gaza has been catastrophic and horrifying. Israel’s use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas has destroyed entire neighbourhoods and damaged hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, schools, mosques and United Nations premises,” the envoy said, “unequivocally” condemning the killing and maiming of civilians in Gaza, including women and children.

Stressing that the protection of civilians is “paramount” in any armed conflict, he said the impact of the ongoing hostilities on the humanitarian situation in Gaza is “deeply concerning”.

“The life-threatening conditions facing the more than 1.7 million internally displaced people in Gaza, where nowhere is safe, must be addressed immediately,” he added.

Escalating violence in West Bank ‘deeply worrying’

Turning to the Occupied West Bank, Wennesland said he remains “deeply troubled” by continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“I reiterate that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and are in flagrant violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. I urge the Government of Israel to cease all settlement activity immediately,” he added.

The escalating violence and tensions in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are “deeply worrying”, he said, reiterating that security forces must exercise “maximum restraint” and use lethal force only when it is strictly unavoidable to protect life.

Tensions have been high across the Occupied West Bank since Israel launched a deadly military offensive against the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 37,600 Palestinians since 7 October.

At least 553 Palestinians have since been killed, including 133 children, and nearly 5,300 injured by Israeli army fire in the West Bank, according to the Health Ministry.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in its latest ruling has ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on 6 May.

READ: UN Women Representative: ‘Everyone in Gaza has a harrowing story’