Guterres Warns Against Lebanon Turning Into Another Gaza

The United Nations

The UN Secretary-General on Friday voiced profound concern over escalating violence and "bellicose rhetoric" between Israel and Hezbollah militants across the frontier with Lebanon, warning that one false move could trigger a catastrophe for the whole region and beyond.

The situation along the Blue Line, the demarcation between Israeli and Lebanese armed forces, has 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.

On Thursday Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly issued a stern warning to Israel amid reports that the Israeli military has approved plans for an offensive on southern Lebanon.

Prevent a catastrophe

Speaking to the press at the UN Headquarters, in New York, Secretary-General António Guterres 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.

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

The UN chief also highlighted that on both sides of the Blue Line, many people have already lost their lives and been driven from their homes and livelihoods.

De-escalation now

He urged both sides to "urgently recommit" to the full implementation of 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," Mr. Guterres said, declaring that "there is no military solution."

He 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.

UN peacekeepers on the ground

The Secretary-General also emphasized that the UN is "actively engaging" to promote peace, security and stability, in line with resolution 1701.

"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 Organization 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," Mr. Guterres concluded.

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