UN head says Israel, Hamas on ‘brink of war’

The UN secretary-general said that the recent escalation in Gaza is “a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is.”

By: AP and World Israel Staff 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the escalation of violence in Gaza is “a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is.” He urged Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to recommit to the ceasefire that ended their 2014 war.

The UN chief said in a report to the Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press that he was “shocked” by the Israeli Defense Forces’ use of live fire since border protests began in Gaza on March 30. He said its military has “a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint” except as a last resort.

Confronted by thousands of rioting Gazans, including armed Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists attempting to overrun the border fence separating Israel from Gaza Strip, Israel used a variety of measures, including, in some cases, live fire.

Preventing a mass infiltration of armed terrorists seeking to kidnap or kill IDF soldiers or civilians was seen by Israel as justification for using such aggressive means.

The IDF said that it did not target paramedics and journalists embedded with the rioters, many of whom were found to be affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups.

However, Gueterres questioned Israeli actions.

“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.”

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

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

The rioters have pressed demands for a “right of return” for descendants of Palestinian refugees to ancestral homes in what is now Israel. More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled after Palestinians and Arab states launched a war on Israel in rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan that sought to create a Jewish and Palestinian state in Israel.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million residents are descendants of refugees.

Israel pulled out its military and evacuated all Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip in 2005. In 2007, Hamas wrested control of the coastal enclave from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup.

Guterres 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 said Israel’s May 30 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,” adding that it creates “yet more obstacles” to a two-state solution.

The UN secretary-general did not mention as “obstacles” Palestinian incitement, the violent rift between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that has prevented democratic elections since 2007, Palestinian corruption or Hamas terrorist activities against Israel.