Gaza war may fuel much wider Middle East crisis, warns UN rights chief

UN News/Ziad Taleb A heavily war-damaged neighbourhood in central Gaza.

United Nations, 4 March 2024

Negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza continued in Egypt for a second day on Monday as the UN’s top rights official warned that the war there risked morphing into a much “wider conflagration” enveloping every country in the Middle East and beyond.

“I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration,” Volker Türk told the Human Rights Council, the UN’s top rights forum. 

Spillover risk 

In a scheduled update on global crises to the Council’s 47 Member States, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that the international community should do “everything possible” to avoid a further spillover of conflict in Gaza.

His comments came amid calls for an “immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks” to facilitate the release of Israeli hostages from United States’ Vice President Kamala Harris, while international negotiations for a ceasefire continued in Egypt on Sunday, reportedly involving the US, Qatari and Hamas envoys but not so far, Israeli representatives.

Lebanon danger

The risks to regional stability were already apparent in southern Lebanon, Mr. Türk said, emphasizing that militia fighters sympathetic to the Palestinian cause were now engaged in an “extremely worrying” uptick of hostilities and exchanges of fire with Israel, along the UN-monitored Blue Line that separates both countries.

Almost 200 people have been killed in Lebanon since war erupted in Gaza¸ the High Commissioner continued, with children, paramedics and journalists among the victims.

Some 90,000 people in Lebanon had been displaced by the violence, Mr. Türk said, amid “extensive damage to health facilities, schools, and vital infrastructure”. Israeli communities had also seen 80,000 people uprooted from border areas because of the violent escalation, the UN rights chief noted. 

Child deaths update

In a related development, the enclave’s health authorities announced that at least 15 children have now died from malnutrition and dehydration at Kamal Adwan hospital in Gaza City.

Many more youngsters will likely die in the coming days, unless aid is ramped up without delay, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Sunday.

“The child deaths we feared are here and are likely to rapidly increase unless the war ends and obstacles to humanitarian relief are immediately resolved,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

9,000 women killed in Gaza 

Gaza’s health authorities have reported that more than 30,400 people have been killed in the Strip – mostly women and children – amid intense Israeli bombardment and a ground operation against Hamas fighters.

UN Women estimated before the weekend that around 9,000 women have been reportedly killed by Israeli forces since the war erupted nearly five months ago. However, the figure is likely to be higher as many more are reported dead under the rubble.

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The original article appeared here.

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