UN envoy warns of ‘catastrophe’ if Gaza violence resumes
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UN envoy warns of ‘catastrophe’ if Gaza violence resumes

Nickolay Mladenov tells Security Council a ‘fragile calm’ persists amid ‘extremely tense’ situation between Israel, Hamas

File: Nickolay Mladenov, left, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, briefs the United Nations Security Council in a video conference, Monday November 19, 2018 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
File: Nickolay Mladenov, left, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, briefs the United Nations Security Council in a video conference, Monday November 19, 2018 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The United Nations envoy for the Middle East warned Tuesday of catastrophic consequences from escalating violence in Gaza as fighting threatened to resume following a shaky ceasefire.

Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that a “fragile calm” had returned to the region but that the situation remained “extremely tense” following reports that Hamas had agreed to a truce.

“I am concerned that we may once again be facing another very dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza with potentially catastrophic consequences,” Mladenov told a council meeting on the Middle East.

“The last two days have shown how precipitously close we came to the brink of war once again.”

He spoke hours before Israel threatened to resume bombing raids and Gazan terrorists fired a rocket at Israel, marking a resumption of fighting after a day of calm.

An infant’s swing outside the home of the Wolf family in the central Israeli village of Mishmeret, which was destroyed in the early morning hours of March 25, 2019 by a rocket fired from Gaza. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The United Nations is working with Egypt to ensure a truce takes hold to avoid the outbreak of a fourth war in the Palestinian enclave in a just over decade.

Mladenov urged the council to condemn the “continued indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas towards Israel” and also to call on all sides to show restraint.

“A new conflict will be devastating for the Palestinian people. It will have consequences for Israelis who live in the vicinity of the Gaza perimeter, and it is likely to have regional repercussions,” Mladenov warned.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel to show restraint.

“It is absolutely necessary to avoid any scaling up and to have restraint,” he told reporters.

He called for “restraint in the present moment, for the people not to suffer even more, both in Israel and in Gaza and in Palestine in general.”

He also condemned the Hamas rocket attack that hit a house in central Israel early Monday, wounding seven people and sparking the new round of fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier told the American pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC that he was ready to order further action in Gaza and “do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state.”

He later ordered additional troops sent to the border area.

A picture taken on March 26, 2019, shows Palestinians gathering next to the rubble of a building in Gaza City, after Israeli air strikes hit dozens of sites across the Strip overnight in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

“We responded with great force,” he said, speaking via a shaky satellite connection from the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he headed immediately upon landing in Israel after a brief visit to Washington cut short by the violence.

“In the last 24 hours, the IDF destroyed major Hamas terrorist installations on a scale not seen since the end of the military operation in Gaza four years ago,” he said.

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