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The current instability in the Middle East may soon spiral completely out of control, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a press conference in New York on Monday.
Guterres once again addressed the crisis triggered by the events of October 7, when Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. The ensuing Israeli blockade, bombing, and ground assault of Gaza has since killed almost 24,000 people, according to local health officials.
The civilian death toll in Gaza has resulted in widespread international condemnation of Israel’s actions, and has already drawn the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis into the conflict.
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“Tensions are also sky-high in the Red Sea and beyond – and may soon be impossible to contain,” Guterres said, adding that he is concerned that “daily exchanges of fire” risk “triggering a broader escalation between Israel and Lebanon and profoundly affecting regional stability.”
While the secretary-general condemned the actions of Hamas, he also blasted the Israeli operation as “collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” saying it has caused an “unprecedented level of civilian casualties,” while noting that “the vast majority of those killed are women and children.”
Last week, the Houthis pledged to continue targeting Israeli- and US-linked ships in the Red Sea “until the siege on Gaza is lifted.” The Houthis have also targeted British and American warships operating in the area as part of an international maritime operation organized last month by the US to safeguard shipping in the region. The “heightening tensions” also led Iran to send one of their warships to the Red Sea earlier this month.
US and UK warplanes attacked Houthi targets in Yemen with around 70 airstrikes last Thursday and Friday. While US National Security spokesman John Kirby stated that the strikes are having a “good effect,” a New York Times report claimed that around three-quarters of Houthi military assets remain intact.
Moscow has condemned the strikes on Yemen, calling them “illegal” and saying they were carried out in violation of the UN Charter.
The UN secretary-general has said that “the longer the conflict in Gaza continues, the greater the risk of escalation and miscalculation.”