The United Nations has warned of dire consequences if there is a crossfire along the Blue Line, the border between Israel and Lebanon as the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates.
It is calling on “all parties and those with influence” over the feuding factions to contain a “spillover” of hostilities.
In a brief statement to the media, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “in continuous contact with the leaders of the region” in the Middle East in the wake of the new war between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas, with “several priorities”, the first of which, he said, was to “avoid a spillover of the conflict”.
“We must avoid a spillover of the conflict. I am concerned about the recent exchange of fire along the Blue Line and the reported attacks in southern Lebanon. I call on all parties and those with influence over those parties to avoid further escalation and contagion,” the UN chief said.
Guterres also reiterated his call for “the necessary release of all Israeli hostages held in Gaza”, estimated by the Israeli government at more than 100 people, and recalled that civilians must be protected in any conflict, as dictated by international humanitarian law.
The UN said there are now more than 220,000 Palestinian refugees in 92 UNRWA facilities in the Gaza Strip and said UN staff are “working around the clock” to support the Gazans.
He also regretted that several UN employees “have already paid the price”: the organisation estimates that eleven UNRWA workers have been killed in the last four days by Israeli shelling.
Amid the Israeli government’s blockade of the enclave, Guterres called for crucial supplies such as food and water to be allowed into Gaza, and thanked Egypt for its intervention to “facilitate humanitarian access” through the Rafah crossing and El Arish airport.
Following Saturday’s surprise attack by the Islamist Hamas movement in Israel, the new war enters its fifth day on Wednesday, with Gaza militias continuing to fire rockets into Israeli communities near the border.
Israeli air strikes on the Strip also continued, with extensive bombardment of more than 320 targets of both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in different parts of the enclave, including a compound allegedly used for the production and storage of weapons.