UN chief urges Israel, Hamas to avoid another ‘devastating conflict’

UNITED NATIONS,:Expressing deep concern over the latest flare-up of violence around Gaza, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday urged Israel and Hamas to “step back from the brink of another devastating conflict”.

“I am gravely concerned over the dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel,” the UN chief said in a statement.

“I deeply regret the loss of life. It is imperative that all sides urgently step back from the brink of another devastating conflict,” he added.

On March 30 this year, Palestinians in Gaza – controlled by Hamas, a Palestinian faction – started a mass protest against the blockade of the enclave imposed by Israel since the early 1990’s. The confrontation between the sides has since escalated.

On Friday, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier and the Israeli military launched dozens of deadly strikes that killed three Palestinian activists, according to media reports. A fourth Palestinian was killed by Israeli gunfire during a protest near the border.

Guterres, in his statement, called on Hamas and other Palestinian militants in Gaza to cease the launching of rockets and incendiary kites and provocations along the enclave’s border fence. He also said Israel must exercise restraint to avoid further inflaming the situation.

“Any further escalation will endanger the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, deepen the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and undermine current efforts to improve livelihoods and support the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza,” he said.

The Secretary-General also encouraged all to engage with the UN, and particularly his Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, and work to find “a way out of this dangerous situation”.