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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

UN High Commissioner Urges Restraint to Prevent Escalation of Gaza Situation

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasizes the need to prevent escalation of the Gaza conflict, warning of broader repercussions across the Middle East, amid calls for ceasefire and concerns over casualties and displacement in Gaza and Lebanon.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said on Monday it was imperative to avoid any exacerbation of the war in Gaza, warning that any conflagration could have broad repercussions across the Middle East and beyond the region.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, he said the war in Gaza, which had been raging since October 7, had already spilled over in neighbouring countries.

“I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration,” Turk warned.

“This would have implications for every country in the Middle East, and many beyond it.”

In a scheduled update on global crises to the Council’s 47 member states, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that the international community should do “everything possible” to avoid a further spillover of conflict in Gaza.

His comments came amid calls for an “immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks” to facilitate the release of Israeli hostages from United States’ Vice President Kamala Harris, while international negotiations for a ceasefire continued in Egypt on Sunday, reportedly involving the US, Qatari and Palestinian envoys but not so far, Israeli representatives.

The risks to regional stability were already apparent in southern Lebanon, Turk said, emphasizing that militia fighters sympathetic to the Palestinian cause were now engaged in an “extremely worrying” uptick of hostilities and exchanges of fire with Israel, along the UN-monitored Blue Line that separates both countries.

Almost 200 people had been killed in Lebanon since war erupted in Gaza¸ the High Commissioner continued, with children, paramedics and journalists among the victims.

Some 90,000 people in Lebanon had been displaced by the violence, Turk said, amid “extensive damage to health facilities, schools, and vital infrastructure”. Israeli communities had also seen 80,000 people uprooted from border areas because of the violent escalation, the UN rights chief noted.

In a related development, the enclave’s health authorities announced that at least 15 children have now died from malnutrition and dehydration at Kamal Adwan hospital in Gaza City.

“Many more youngsters will likely die in the coming days, unless aid is ramped up without delay,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Sunday.

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“The child deaths we feared are here and are likely to rapidly increase unless the war ends and obstacles to humanitarian relief are immediately resolved,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Gaza’s health authorities have reported that more than 30,400 people have been killed in the Strip – mostly women and children – amid intense Israeli bombardment and a ground operation in Gaza.

UN Women estimated before the weekend that around 9,000 women have been reportedly killed by Israeli forces since the war erupted nearly five months ago. However, the figure is likely to be higher as many more are reported dead under the rubble.