The General Assembly adopted a resolution last month calling for an immediate ceasefire, which has been ignored and the body has no enforcement powers….writes Arul Louis
Pleading for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday about the risk of “flames of wider war”.
“I am profoundly worried by what is unfolding,” he told reporters surveying the heightening tensions from Gaza and the West Bank to Lebanon and the Red Sea.
“Tensions are also sky-high in the Red Sea and beyond – and may soon be impossible to contain,” he said.
“To tamp down the flames of wider war because the longer the conflict in Gaza continues, the greater the risk of escalation and miscalculation,” he said, adding: “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
The General Assembly adopted a resolution last month calling for an immediate ceasefire, which has been ignored and the body has no enforcement powers.
The Security Council, which can enforce its decisions, cannot demand a ceasefire because of the US veto.
Last month, the US vetoed a Council resolution calling for a ceasefire that was opposed by Israel.
The conflict originated with a terrorist onslaught by Hamas from Gaza on Israel on October 7, 2023 in which over 1,200 people were killed and about 240 people were taken hostage.
Guterres demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and said that meanwhile they should be treated humanely and the Red Cross should be allowed to visit them.
“The accounts of sexual violence committed by Hamas and others on October 7 must be rigorously investigated and prosecuted,” he added.
In Israel’s continuing retaliation since the terror strike, over 30,000 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry.
“I am deeply troubled by the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing,” he said.
“The onslaught on Gaza by Israeli forces over these 100 days has unleashed wholesale destruction and levels of civilian killings at a rate that is unprecedented during my years as Secretary General,” he said, pointing out that the vast majority of those killed are women and children.
“Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Although 152 UN staff members have been killed in Gaza — “the largest single loss of life in the history of our organisation” — aid workers continue to work there, he said.
Asking for increasing access for humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, Guterres warned: “The long shadow of starvation is stalking the people of Gaza – along with disease, malnutrition and other health threats.”
As Gaza conflict continues, “the cauldron of tensions in the occupied West Bank is boiling over”, Guterres said.
The daily exchanges of fire across the Blue Line separating the two countrie “risks triggering a broader escalation between Israel and Lebanon and profoundly affecting regional stability”, Guterres said.
“Stop playing with fire across the Blue Line, de-escalate, and bring hostilities to an end,” he said.
The conflict there is between the Israeli forces and Hezbollah, a militant Shia group that controls parts of Lebanon.
And in the Red Sea region — a vital link connecting Asia and East Africa with Europe and beyond through the Suez Canal — rebels from Houthis, a Shia group supported by Iran, have attacked shipping asserting that their actions were in support of ending Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
The US and its allies retaliated by bombing several targets in Yemen, some of them civilian.
The only solution to end the spreading crisis is a ceasefire, Guterres said.
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