Guterres warns of catastrophe in the Middle East


Lerato Khumalo

The UN chief is demanding that Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon end hostilities. At the same time, he is complaining about total chaos in Gaza. The deaths continue there. The news at a glance.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has issued a stark warning of a catastrophe in the conflict between Israel and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. “One rash act – one miscalculation – could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the limits and, frankly, beyond the imagination,” Guterres warned in New York.

The people in the region and around the world “cannot afford for Lebanon to become another Gaza,” said Guterres, referring to the war between Israel and the Islamist Hamas, an ally of Hezbollah, in the Gaza Strip. According to Palestinian sources, at least 24 people died there in an attack on a tent camp for internally displaced people, which was attributed to Israel.

When asked, the Israeli military said that initial investigations indicate that the attack in Al-Mawasi near Rafah in southern Gaza was not carried out by Israeli troops. The incident is still being investigated.

According to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Authority, 47 Palestinians were injured in the attack. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Platform X that the nearby field hospital had received 22 dead and 45 injured, with reports of more casualties.

The Red Cross statement did not say who was responsible. “Heavy caliber” projectiles hit just a few meters from the ICRC office and its accommodation in Al-Mawasi. The office building, which was “surrounded by hundreds of displaced people living in tents,” was damaged.

The city of Rafah, which borders Egypt, has been the focus of an Israeli military offensive since the beginning of May. Israel wants to destroy the last Hamas battalions there. Around a million people had sought refuge there in a confined space from fighting in other parts of the Gaza Strip. When the Israeli ground offensive began, they fled again.

Many came to Al-Mawasi, where, according to aid organizations, there is a lack of accommodation, sanitary facilities, water and food. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli tank shells hit the tent camp there completely unexpectedly. These reports could not be independently verified.

UN Secretary General Guterres complained that there was “total lawlessness” in the Gaza Strip. There were “extreme difficulties in distributing” aid supplies in Gaza, and trucks were being looted. The problem was not just getting aid supplies into Gaza.

“There must be a mechanism in place to guarantee a minimum level of law and order so that the distribution can take place,” Guterres demanded. The UN chief therefore once again urged an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Qatar: Progress in negotiations

According to the mediating state Qatar, there has been some progress in the indirect negotiations. However, there are “still some gaps” between Israel and Hamas, said Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani during a visit to Spain.

Qatar is continuing its efforts, he said. There have been several meetings with representatives of Hamas. For months, the mediators USA, Qatar and Egypt have been trying to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire and Hamas to release the remaining 120 people abducted from Israel – but so far without success.

According to a report by the Israeli news site “Ynet,” Hamas’ foreign chief Ismail Haniya reiterated the Islamist organization’s position. They are “open to any negotiation and ceasefire initiative” as long as it meets the demands to “end the war.”

Hamas is sticking to its demands, such as a permanent ceasefire and a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, it was said. However, Israel has so far strictly rejected an end to the war.

Meanwhile, there was renewed mutual shelling on Israel’s border with Lebanon. In response to repeated attacks on areas in northern Israel, the Israeli army said it carried out air strikes against several positions of the pro-Iranian Shiite militia Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, the military said.

Previously, attacks had taken place from Lebanon on areas in northern Israel. There were no reports of injuries, it was said. The information could not be independently verified. Since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip, there have been daily military confrontations between the Israeli army and Hezbollah in the border area between Israel and Lebanon. There have been deaths on both sides.