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UN chief voices "profound concern" over escalating violence between Israel, Hezbollah

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-22 05:31
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Black smoke billows following an Israeli air strike that targeted a house in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the Lebanese-Israeli border on June 21, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters. [Via agencies]

UNITED NATIONS -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday voiced "profound concern" over escalating violence and "bellicose rhetoric" between Israel and Hezbollah militants across the frontier with Lebanon.

Speaking to the press at the UN headquarters in New York, the UN chief warned that one false move could trigger a catastrophe for the whole region and beyond.

"One rash move -- one miscalculation -- could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination," he said.

He underscored that a widening of the conflict in the Middle East must be avoided.

"Let's be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza," he stressed.

The UN chief noted that on both sides of the Blue Line, many people have already lost their lives, and tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes, with their livelihoods destroyed.

He urged both sides to urgently recommit to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and immediately return to a cessation of hostilities.

Adopted in 2006, the resolution set in motion a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and the establishment of demilitarized zone.

"The world must say loudly and clearly: immediate de-escalation is not only possible -- it is essential," Guterres said, declaring that "there is no military solution."

"It is time for reason and rationality. It is time for practical and pragmatic engagement by the parties to the diplomatic and political avenues available to them," he stressed, noting that the cessation of hostilities and progress toward a permanent ceasefire is the only durable solution.

The UN chief also underscored the need to protect civilians, ensure that children, journalists and medical workers are not targeted, and ensure the displaced can return to their homes.

The United Nations is actively engaging to promote peace, security and stability, in line with resolution 1701, he said.

"UN peacekeepers, UNIFIL, are on the ground working to de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation, in an extremely challenging environment," he said, adding that the United Nations fully supports diplomatic efforts to end the violence, restore stability and avoid even greater human suffering in the region.

"And we do so as we continue to press for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages and a real pathway to a two-state solution," Guterres concluded.

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