UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza

Photo showing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives to take part in the annual Kultaranta meeting on foreign and security policy on June 18, 2018 at the presidential Kultaranta summer residence in Naantali, Finland. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2018
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UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that Gaza is close to the brink of war and expressed shock over the number of Palestinians killed and wounded by Israeli live fire during protests, in a report obtained by AFP on Monday.
Guterres told the Security Council that he “unequivocally condemns the steps by all parties that have brought us to this dangerous and fragile place” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The report was sent to the council last week ahead of a meeting on Tuesday on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The violence in Gaza marks the most serious escalation between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.
“It is and should be a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is,” said Guterres.
“I am shocked by the number of deaths and injuries of Palestinians resulting from the use of live fire by Israel Defense Forces” since protests began on March 30, he said.
At least 132 Palestinian have been killed. The Red Cross says more than 13,000 have been wounded including 1,400 who suffered multiple gunshot wounds, many in the legs.
Israel has a responsibility to “exercise maximum restraint” and protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law, the UN chief wrote.
“The killing of children, as well as of clearly identified journalists and medical staffers by security forces during a demonstration are particularly unacceptable,” he added.
Two Palestinian journalists were killed while covering the protests in April while a 21-year-old medic was shot dead in early June.
Guterres renewed his call for an independent investigation of the shooting deaths in Gaza. Israel has rejected the appeal and argues that the use of force is justified to defend its borders.
The UN chief criticized Hamas and other militant groups for attempting to put explosives near the fence and for shooting rockets at Israel on May 29 and 30.
He singled out “senior Israeli government officials” for asserting that all Palestinians were affiliated with Hamas, signalling a “permissive Israeli policy toward the use of live fire against protesters.”
Israel’s settlement activities “continue unabated,” Guterres added, citing a May 30 decision by Israel to approve 3,500 housing units in the West Bank — the largest batch of new housing since June 2017.
The United Nations considers the expansion of settlements on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state to be illegal. Guterres said the construction must “cease immediately and completely.”


Netanyahu says new Israel elections would be ‘irresponsible’

Updated 17 min 25 sec ago
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Netanyahu says new Israel elections would be ‘irresponsible’

  • Netanyahu issued the message on Monday moments before education minister is to announce where stay or leave coalition
  • Netanyahu says he will do whatever is needed to protect the country

JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime minister says it would be “irresponsible” to dissolve the government and call early elections.
Benjamin Netanyahu issued the message on Monday, moments before his education minister, Naftali Bennett, was to announce whether he’s pulling his Jewish Home Party out of the coalition.
If Bennett leaves, it would cause the government to collapse and trigger new elections.
Bennett has threatened to withdraw from the coalition to protest a cease-fire reached by Netanyahu last week with Hamas militants. Netanyahu’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned in protest.
Bennett had demanded the defense portfolio as a condition for remaining in the government. But late Sunday, Netanyahu said he would take the job himself.
Netanyahu says he will do whatever is needed to protect the country, regardless of his coalition partners’ decision.