UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ threat if Israel-Hezbollah fighting escalates

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Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East urged both sides to take urgent, immediate steps to deescalate the situation….reports Asian Lite News

The UN on Tuesday expressed serious concerns about the risk of an escalation in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, warning that not only would it cause even more suffering and devastation to the people of Lebanon and Israel but also “more potentially catastrophic consequences for the region.”

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East urged both sides to take urgent, immediate steps to deescalate the situation.

Tensions along the border between Israel and Lebanon continue to escalate. Cross-border exchanges of fire have increased in recent weeks, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to warn that the risk of the conflict spreading to the wider region “is real and must be avoided.”

Wennesland was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the implementation of Resolution 2334, which was adopted in 2016 and demands an end to all Israeli settlement activity, immediate steps to prevent violence and acts of terror against civilians, and calls on both sides to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.

Wennesland said he was “deeply troubled” by continuing Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and reiterated that all settlements “have no legal validity and are in flagrant violation of international law.” He called on Israel to cease all such activity immediately.

Escalating violence and tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also deeply worrying, Wennesland said.

“Intensified armed exchanges between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, alongside lethal attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, have also exacerbated tensions and led to exceedingly high levels of casualties and detentions. All perpetrators of attacks must be held accountable,” he added.

Wennesland blamed regional instability on the ongoing hostilities in Gaza and stressed the need for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“There is a deal on the table and it should be agreed,” he told council members. “I welcome the efforts, including by Egypt, Qatar and the United States, to reach such deal.”

He lamented the fact that effective mechanisms from Israel to provide humanitarian notifications, safe conditions for humanitarian operations, and sufficient access for aid workers to address humanitarian needs remain “sorely lacking and must be put in place without delay.”

Wennesland added: “Hunger and food insecurity persist. While projections of imminent famine in the northern governates have been averted through an increase in food deliveries, food insecurity has worsened in the south.

“Nearly all of Gaza’s population continues to face high levels of food insecurity, with nearly half a million people facing ‘catastrophic’ insecurity.”

Senior UN officials told Israeli authorities on Tuesday they will suspend aid operations across the battered enclave unless urgent steps are taken to protect humanitarian workers.

The UN World Food Program has already suspended aid deliveries from a US-built pier in Gaza over security concerns. This comes at a time when the amounts of essential goods allowed into Gaza continue to fall far short of the needs of the population, Wennesland said.

The Palestinian Authority’s fiscal situation remains “very precarious,” he added. Israel’s finance minister has announced his intention to continue blocking the transfer of all clearance revenues to the PA, and to take action that would end relations between Israeli and Palestinian banks at the end of June.

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