UN Warns Gaza Violence Could Turn Catastrophic

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019 - 16:45
Geneva- Asharq Al-Awsat

The United Nations envoy for the Middle East warned Tuesday of catastrophic consequences from escalating violence in Gaza as Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continued to exchange fire despite a ceasefire deal.

Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that a "fragile calm" had returned to the region but that the situation remained "extremely tense" following reports that Hamas had agreed to a truce.

"I am concerned that we may once again be facing another very dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza with potentially catastrophic consequences," Mladenov told a council meeting on the Middle East.

"The last two days have shown how precipitously close we came to the brink of war once again."

Israel kept up airstrikes on Gaza into Tuesday and Palestinian militants launched new rockets despite the ceasefire claim.

The United Nations is working with Egypt to ensure a truce takes hold to avoid the outbreak of a fourth war in the Palestinian enclave.

Mladenov urged the council to condemn the "continued indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas towards Israel" and also to call on all sides to show restraint.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that he was ready to order further action in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip after airstrikes in response to rocket fire.

"I can tell you we are prepared to do a lot more. We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state," Netanyahu told the US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC by video link from the Jewish state's defense headquarters.

Netanyahu cut short his visit to Washington to handle the response after a rare rocket strike landed near Tel Aviv, injuring seven Israelis, just two weeks ahead of elections.

Israel hit back with airstrikes including on the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire failing to take hold.

"A new conflict will be devastating for the Palestinian people. It will have consequences for Israelis, who live in the vicinity of the Gaza perimeter, and it is likely to have regional repercussions," Mladenov warned.

The envoy also reported that Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had continued despite a 2016 resolution demanding an end to the building of the Jewish outposts.

More than 3,000 units have been approved or tendered in the occupied West Bank -- the largest batch of new settlements since May 2018, said Mladenov.

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