Warning that Gaza is on a knife’s edge, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today the situation could spiral quickly beyond anyone’s control, and urged the international community to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to avert further escalation “in a region that can ill-afford another full-blown war.”
“I am alarmed by the new wave of violence that has engulfed Gaza, southern Israel and the West Bank – including Jerusalem. This is one of the most critical tests the region has faced in recent years,” said the Secretary-General, as he briefed the press at UN Headquarters on the latest developments.
Israeli-Palestinian violence has flared in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in late June and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem last week.
And just yesterday, with militants in the Gaza Strip stepping up rocket attacks against Israel, and Israeli airstrikes on the enclave intensifying, Mr. Ban reiterated his call on all actors to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further civilian casualties and overall destabilization.
The UN chief told reporters that he had spent much of the day working the phones with regional and world leaders – including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and several others, including the Secretaries-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States.
With the situation deteriorating, Mr. Ban said the risk the violence could expand “is real.” As such, he again firmly condemned the multiple rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israel, and declared that such attacks are “unacceptable” and must stop.
“I also urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to exercise maximum restraint in responding to provocations and to respect international obligations to protect civilians. I condemn the rising number of civilian lives lost in Gaza,” said the Secretary-General.
Mr. Ban said that he commended President Abbas for courageously upholding his commitment to security coordination, which is essential to achieving stability on the ground. “President Abbas remains the best partner for peace,” he added.
“I shared with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders my condolences and condemnation of the recent attacks on innocent civilians,” said the UN chief, underscoring that the killers must be brought to justice. He also encouraged leaders on both sides to do their utmost to end all attacks – including provocations and attacks by Israeli settlers.
“Extremism in all its forms is fuelling the cycle of violence. This is a time for justice, not for revenge. It is a time for statesmanship and wisdom,” declared Mr. Ban.
He said that during his discussions today, the leaders agreed on the urgency of the situation – and the imperative to resume meaningful negotiations towards a viable two-State solution.
With this is mind, the international community must work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restore a political horizon to avert further escalation.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General said the UN is ready to rapidly respond to emerging humanitarian needs, and noted that the Organization is already working closely with Palestinian and Israeli authorities and other partners, including the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Mr. Ban also encouraged the Government of Egypt to urgently open its crossing for humanitarian purposes to help alleviate the suffering in Gaza.
“I know emotions are running very high. I urge all sides to exercise maximum restraint. Calm must be restored as soon as possible. The lives of countless innocent civilians and the peace process itself are in the balance,” he stated.