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UN envoy urges action to prevent Gaza escalation


AP United Nations
The UN's top Mideast envoy warned today that the Gaza Strip is "about to explode" and declared the world "must do everything possible to prevent another war" between Israel and the Palestinians as well as elsewhere in the Mideast.
Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace are slipping further away and with tensions mounting, the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a perpetual source of oxygen for militants and radicals" in the region.
His warnings came ahead of Friday's fifth weekly planned protests by Hamas, which controls Gaza, near the border fence with Israel, which has become a deadly flashpoint. Hamas says the protests are against a decade-long blockade of the isolated strip. Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and only targeting instigators and accuses Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attacks.
So far, 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and more than 1,500 have been wounded since the protests began March 30 a death toll that drew sharp criticism of Israel from many countries at Thursday's council meeting. Israel and its close ally, the United States, countered by accusing Hamas of using innocent civilians as human shields.
Mladenov called Gaza a "powder keg" and told council members that "old wounds continue to bleed and deepen as we speak, risking the outbreak of another war." He also stressed there is no military solution to any Mideast conflict whether in Syria, Yemen or Gaza.
De-escalation is critical "in this highly charged and dangerous environment," he said. "Everyone in the Middle East needs to step back from the brink." Describing the current situation in Gaza, Mladenov used some of his strongest remarks yet.
"What is happening in Gaza is an injustice that no man, woman or child should have to endure," he said. "People should not be destined to spend their lives surrounded by borders they are forbidden to cross, or waters they are forbidden to navigate. They should not be destined to live under the control of

Hamas, which invests in militant activities at the expense of the population." In addition to the killings by Israeli forces, he said there have been "an increasing number of dangerous incidents at the fence" by Palestinians, including planting improvised explosive devices at least one which exploded and throwing Molotov cocktails, as well as attempting to get through the fence.
The UN envoy said he has engaged intensively with all sides to reduce "risks of friction" and welcomed efforts by Egypt and others.
"Israel must calibrate its use of force and minimize the use of live fire. Lethal force should be used only as a last resort," Mladenov said. "Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations must keep protesters away from the Gaza fence and to prevent all violent actions and provocations." Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, accused Israel's military forces of targeting civilians in Gaza and called their deliberate killing and wounding "terrorism.

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First Published: Apr 27 2018 | 3:10 AM IST

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