Regional crisis deepens as Gaza war grinds on

While the situation in Gaza remains catastrophic, ongoing Israeli settlement expansion and escalating violence in the occupied West Bank is ratcheting up tension across the whole region.

While the situation in Gaza remains catastrophic, ongoing Israeli settlement expansion and escalating violence in the occupied West Bank is ratcheting up tension across the whole region, the UN’s Middle East envoy said on Tuesday.Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, was briefing ambassadors during one of his regular briefings in the Security Council.

“I reiterate that all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and are in flagrant violation of international law and relevant UN resolutions,” he said.

“I urge the Government of Israel to cease all settlement activity immediately.”

He also noted intensified armed exchanges between Palestinians and Israeli security forces alongside lethal attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

All perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice,” he added, reiterating that the occupying security forces “must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when it is strictly unavoidable to protect life.”

Israel-Hezbollah tensions

Mr. Wennesland also expressed serious concerns about the risk of escalation between Israel and Hezbollah along the Blue Line – the frontier separating Lebanese and Israeli armed forces – calling for urgent steps to de-escalate.

He reiterated the Secretary-General’s concern that further military escalation will only guarantee more suffering, more devastation to communities on both sides, and “more potentially catastrophic consequences for the region”.

Tensions along the Blue Line have been deteriorating since Israel launched its offensive in the Gaza Strip following the brutal 7 October attack by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups against communities in the country’s south.

Several people have lost their lives, tens of thousands are displaced, and houses and whole neighbourhoods destroyed.

‘Catastrophic, horrifying’ situation in Gaza

Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, civilians continue to bear the devastating impact of the hostilities and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Wennesland told ambassadors he’d witnessed the deteriorating security situation on each of his visits and characterized the scope of death and destruction as “catastrophic and horrifying”.

The use of explosive weapons by Israel in densely populated areas has destroyed entire neighborhoods and damaged hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, as well as UN premises, he said, expressing his unequivocal condemnation the killing and maiming of civilians in Gaza, including women and children.

Ongoing military operations and a “near total breakdown” of civil order have resulted in multiple reported incidents of theft of relief supplies and shootings that posed significant risks to the population and humanitarian workers.

He underscored the urgent need for effective mechanisms for humanitarian notification, safe conditions for aid operations, and sufficient access to humanitarian needs.

Fiscal crisis

Mr. Wennesland voiced deep concern over the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s fiscal situation amidst broader economic and security concerns across the occupied West Bank.  

He referred to an announcement by the Israeli Finance Minister to continue blocking the transfer of clearance revenues to the PA and end corresponding banking arrangements between Israeli and Palestinian institutions by the end of the month.  

These measures could severely worsen the financial crisis and disrupt the entire Palestinian financial system, the UN Special Coordinator warned.

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