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UN envoy sees most serious escalation between Israel, Palestinian militants in years

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 08:44, May 13, 2021

"We are very concerned by the growing civilian casualties in both Gaza and Israel and deeply saddened by reported deaths of children in Gaza," said a UN spokesman.

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 (Xinhua) -- UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, said Wednesday that the situation on the ground continues deteriorating into "the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years," according to a UN spokesman.

Wennesland made the characterization in his briefing to the Security Council in closed-door consultations, a second time this week, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"We are very concerned by the growing civilian casualties in both Gaza and Israel and deeply saddened by reported deaths of children in Gaza," said Dujarric.

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

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

The secretary-general is particularly appalled that children continue to be victims of violence. They should be afforded special protection from any form of violence, he said.

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, he said.

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. 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, said Dujarric.

The executive director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, said 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 -- all 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."



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