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Gaza 'powder keg' could spark wider war: UN rights chief

Geneva, Switzerland | March 5, 2024, Tuesday @ 06:53 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 2233
Gaza 'powder keg' could spark wider war: UN rights chief

Displaced Palestinians walk around in an UNRWA school housing displaced Palestinians, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 4, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (Photo by AFP)

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The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas is a "powder keg" with the potential to spark broader conflict in the Middle East, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said Monday.

Turk said it was imperative to to take all possible measures to avoid a wider conflagration.

"The war in Gaza has already generated dangerous spillover in neighbouring countries," he said in his global update to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

"I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration. This would have implications for every country in the Middle East and many beyond it."

He said that overlapping emergencies made the spectre of spillover conflict very real, and cited the examples of Yemen and Lebanon as places where the Gaza war is having a wider effect.

"The military escalation in southern Lebanon between Israel, Hezbollah and other armed groups is extremely worrying," Turk said.

The UN high commissioner for human rights said almost 200 people had been killed in Lebanon and some 90,000 internally displaced.

There was also extensive damage to health facilities, schools and vital infrastructure.

"Incidents in which civilians, including children, paramedics and journalists, have been killed in attacks must be fully investigated," said Turk.

Some 80,000 people have also been displaced from areas in northern Israel along the country's border with Lebanon, he added.

"It is imperative to do everything possible to avoid a wider conflagration," he said.

- Yemen concerns -

The Gaza war began after the October 7 attack by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

The Palestinian militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.

Israel's retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed more than 30,000 people in under five months, most of them women and children, according to the territory's Hamas-run health ministry.

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels have been targeting Red Sea shipping for months in protest at the war in Gaza.

The Huthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, say they are attacking Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the beseiged territory.

The unrest has forced several companies to reroute shipments in the commercially vital waterway, driving up delivery times and costs.

The United States, Israel's key ally, has led reprisal strikes on Huthi targets in Yemen in a bid to quash the attacks.

Turk said the Huthi attacks had not only disrupted global maritime trade but had driven up the price of goods, which has had a significant impact on developing countries.

"There is a serious risk of the conflict extending to Yemen itself, with potentially severe harm to Yemen's people, already suffering from the humanitarian crisis generated by a decade of war," he said.

© Agence France-Presse

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