UN chief warns about risk for Middle East conflict to widen

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned about the risk for the conflict in the Middle East to widen in the wake of the escalation between Israel and the Shia movement Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"I feel compelled to voice my profound concerns about escalation between Israel and Hezbollah along the [demarcation] Blue Line. The risk for the conflict in the Middle East to widen is real and must be avoided. The people of the region and the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza," he told reporters.

Guterres added that the command of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are working on the ground to "de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation" in the south of the country.

Tensions remain high along the Lebanese-Israeli border in the wake of another escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which flared up after militants of the radical Palestinian movement Hamas attacked Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. In response, Israel declared a total blockade of the Gaza Strip and launched bombardments of the enclave and some areas in Lebanon and Syria.

The latest conflict in southern Lebanon broke out in the summer of 2006, between the Shia Hezbollah movement and Israel’s armed forces. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 introduced a ceasefire along the border, and it is monitored by 12,000 UNIFIL peacekeepers from 36 countries.

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