Gaza violence is ‘on the brink of war,’ UN chief warns

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U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers to recommit to the cease-fire that ended Operation Protective Edge in 2014, saying the recent escalation of violence in Gaza is “a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is.”

Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in Gaza in the summer of 2014, after three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas operatives and months of sporadic rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

In a report submitted to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press Monday, Guterres said that he was “shocked” by the Israeli Defense Forces’ use of live fire to control the weekly protests that have been taking place on the Israel-Gaza border since March 30.

He said the Israeli military has “a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint,” except as a last resort.

“The killing of children, as well as of clearly identified journalists and medical staffers by security forces during a demonstration are particularly unacceptable,” Guterres said. “They must be allowed to perform their duties without fear of death or injury.”

Gaza health officials and witnesses said IDF soldiers shot and killed a 21-year-old volunteer medic on June 1 as she ran toward the border fence east of Khan Younis in a bid to reach casualties during a border riot.

The IDF said on Tuesday that initial findings from its investigation into the incident showed she was not shot deliberately.

Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately targeting journalists after Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was shot while covering protests on the Gaza-Israeli border in April. Two weeks later, he died of his wounds, Gazan health officials said.

Guterres also said that actions by Hamas and other terrorist groups not only risk Palestinian and Israeli lives but also “efforts to restore dignity and the prospects of a livable future for Palestinians in Gaza.” He cited the rockets fired at Israel and the attempts to breach the border fence by some protesters.

“I unequivocally condemn the steps by all parties that have brought us to this dangerous and fragile situation,” Guterres said.

Since the mass protests began along the Israel-Gaza border, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed, many of them confirmed Hamas operatives, and over 3,800 wounded by IDF fire.

Israel says Gaza’s Hamas leaders are using the so-called “March of Return” protests as a cover to breach the border fence and carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Guterres reiterated that “there is no viable alternative to the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israel and a future Palestinian state living side by side in peace and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

But he said that “only by changing the reality on the ground – by recognizing and addressing the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, ensuring that all sides recommit to the 2014 cease-fire understandings and supporting Egyptian-led efforts to restore control of the legitimate Palestinian government in Gaza – can we preserve the possibility of a viable, independent and fully representative Palestinian state and avert another disastrous, lethal conflict.”

Guterres was reporting on the implementation of a December 2016 Security Council resolution demanding a halt to all Israeli settlement activity and said Israel was not complying with it.

“Israel’s settlement activities continue unabated, undermining the hopes and the practical prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state,” he said.

Guterres said Israel’s May 24 decision to advance, approve and issue tenders for some 3,500 housing units in Judea and Samaria was “the largest batch of advancements at one time since June 2017.”

He stressed that this creates “yet more obstacles” to a two-state solution.

Originally posted at Israel Hayom.


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