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UN coordinator warns of 'devastating consequences' if Mideast violence escalates

UN coordinator warns of 'devastating consequences' if Mideast violence escalates
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U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland is calling for Israeli and Palestinian forces to de-escalate, warning on Sunday there would be “devastating consequences” if the violence in the region continues to build.

In remarks to the U.N. Security Council, Wennesland detailed the number of deaths that have occurred since the conflict began last week. According to the U.N. coordinator, 181 Palestinians and nine Israelis have died as a result of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas missile attacks, based on preliminary figures. Reuters on Sunday reported that 188 Palestinians had died.

“This escalation has already produced tragic results. A further intensification of hostilities would have devastating consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis,” Wennesland said. 

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“I reiterate the Secretary-General’s urgent call on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to take immediate and decisive steps to de-escalate the situation and prevent any further loss of life,” he said. “Israelis and Palestinians have a legitimate right to safety and security. The violence we are witnessing now is unacceptable and unjustifiable.”

Wennesland condemned Hamas, which is considered to be a terrorist organization by the U.S., for violating international humanitarian laws governing armed conflicts by launching rockets from highly populated civilian neighborhoods into Israeli neighborhoods. He also called on Israel to abide by the same laws by practicing “proportional use of force, exercising maximum restraint to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations.”

“We are once again witnessing the tragic results of the failure to address the core issues that have driven the conflict for decades,” Wennesland stated. “Palestinian and Israeli civilians continue to endure the suffering that accompanies repeated cycles of violence and conflict.”

Wennesland told the Security Council that the ongoing conflict would only end with a “political resolution” that addressed the status of Jerusalem and ended Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, which the U.N. considers to be an illegal occupation that violates international laws.