UN chief warns that the risk of the Gaza war spreading is growing as situation becomes more dire

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief warned at a high-level U.N. meeting Tuesday that the situation in the Middle East is growing more dire by the hour with the risk of the Gaza war spreading through the region increasing as societies splinter and tensions threaten to boil over.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to deliver desperately needed food, water, medicine and fuel. He appealed “to all to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even farther.”

Guterres told the U.N. Security Council’s monthly meeting on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which has turned into a major event with ministers from the war’s key parties and a dozen other countries flying to New York -– that the rules of war must be obeyed.

The secretary-general said the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify “the horrifying and unprecedented Oct. 7 acts of terror” by Hamas in Israel and demanded the immediate release of all hostages.



But Guterres also stressed that “those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

He expressed deep concern at “the clear violations of international humanitarian law,” calling Israel’s constant bombardment of Gaza and the level of destruction and civilian casualties “alarming.” Protecting civilians “is paramount in any armed conflict,” he said.

Without naming Hamas, the U.N. chief stressed that “protecting civilians can never mean using them as human shields.”

Guterres also criticized Israel without naming it, saying “protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than one million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.”

The United States is pushing for adoption of a resolution that would condemn the Hamas attacks in Israel and violence against civilians, and reaffirm Israel’s right to self-defense. There were some expectations that it might be voted on Tuesday, but diplomats said it is still being negotiated.

A draft obtained Monday by The Associated Press would also demand the immediate release of all hostages, strongly urge respect for international laws on conducting war and protecting civilians, call on all countries to take steps to prevent a spillover, and demand immediate humanitarian access to Gaza.

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