UN concerned over ‘most serious escalation’ between Israel, Palestine

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United Nations:
 A UN envoy has expressed concerns over “the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years”, adding that the ground situation continues to deteriorate.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland made the remarks on Wednesday during a closed-door briefing of the Security Council for a second time this week on the ongoing violence, reports Xinhua news agency.

Saddened by reported deaths of children in Gaza: UN Secretary-General

“We are very concerned by the growing civilian casualties in both Gaza and Israel and deeply saddened by reported deaths of children in Gaza,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said.

Guterres and Wennesland have both reiterated that the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars by the Hamas and other militants from highly populated neighbourhoods toward civilian population centres violates international humanitarian law, and it is unacceptable and has to stop immediately, said the spokesman.

While recognising Israel’s legitimate security concerns, Wennesland also reiterated that Israeli authorities must also abide by their responsibilities under international law and that security forces should exercise maximum restraint, calibrate their use of force to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations.

Guterres and Wennesland have called on the international community to take action to enable the parties to step back from the brink and return to the previous understandings that have maintained a relative calm in Gaza and avoid a descent into chaos, with the massive casualties and immense damage to civilian infrastructure that would result.

Wennesland reminded the Security Council members that it is the civilian population on both sides that bears the burden of war and that the most vulnerable are the ones at greatest risk of suffering.

Political solution needed

He also highlighted that these devastating cycles of violence, which destroy the lives and futures of Palestinians and Israelis alike, will only stop with a political solution to the conflict, an end to the occupation and a realization of a two-state solution on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and existing agreements, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on Wednesday that at least 14 children on the Palestinian side and one child on the Israeli side have been reportedly killed since Monday.

Ninety-five children in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and three children in Israel have reportedly been injured in the past five days, she said in a statement.

“The situation is at a dangerous tipping point. The level of violence and its impact on children is devastating. We are on the brink of a full-scale war. In any war, children suffer first and suffer most,” she said.

“I call on all sides to end all violence and de-escalate tensions. I urge all sides to protect all civilians, especially children, to spare essential civilian infrastructure from attacks, and to end violations against children.

“I remind all sides of their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law,” she added.

The tit-for-tat trade of fire between militant groups in the Gaza Strip and Israel has been mounting.

The tension in Gaza started when the militants fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem in response to the clashes that broke out at al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police forces.

Since Monday, the buzz of the Israeli fighter jets and drones mixed with the sounds of the bombs were heard all over the Gaza Strip, as gray and black smokes could be easily seen billowing into the sky as result of the Israeli bombings or the firing of rockets by Gaza militants.

The current wave of violence between Israel and Gaza militant groups is the first of its kind since the last large-scale air and ground offensive that Israel waged on the Palestinian enclave for 50 days in 2014.