1235 GMT January 27, 2020
The UN chief said in a report to the Security Council, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, that its military has “a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint” except as a last resort.
“The killing of children, as well as of clearly identified journalists and medical staffers by security forces during a demonstration are particularly unacceptable,” Guterres said. “They must be allowed to perform their duties without fear of death or injury.”
“I unequivocally condemn the steps by all parties that have brought us to this dangerous and fragile situation,” the secretary general said.
Guterres said the escalation of violence in Gaza is “a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is,” and he is urging Israel and Gaza’s Hamas to recommit to the cease-fire that ended their 2014 war.
The UN General Assembly approved a Palestinian-backed resolution on June 13 blaming Israel for violence in Gaza and deploring its “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians and calls for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, after narrowly rejecting a US demand to add a condemnation of attacks on Israel by Gaza’s Hamas.
Presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, the measure won a decisive 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with eight votes against and 45 abstentions.
Israel not complying with resolution
Guterres reiterated that “there is no viable alternative to the two-state solution,” with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and with Al-Quds as the capital of both sides.
The secretary-general reported on the implementation of a December 2016 Security Council resolution demanding a halt to all Israeli settlement activity and said Israel was not complying with it.
“Israel’s settlement activities continue unabated and undermine the hopes and the practical prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state,” he said.
Guterres said Israel’s May 30 decision to advance, approve and issue tenders for some 3,500 housing units in the occupied West Bank was “the largest batch of advancements at one time since June 2017.” And he said it creates “yet more obstacles” to a two-state solution.
Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinian protesters along the Gaza fence has left health workers struggling to cope with an unprecedented crisis, with more than 13,000 wounded, a senior Red Cross official said Monday.
At least 132 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since protests began in Gaza on March 30. But there have been no serious Israeli casualties in the confrontations.
But incendiary materials flown in from Gaza by kites or helium balloons have destroyed swathes of farmland and forests, and killed wildlife.
The demonstrators claim the right of return for people displaced during the war in 1948.
Robert Mardini, head of Middle East for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told reporters that the "vast majority" of the 13,000 hospitalized protesters had suffered severe wounds, including multiple gunshot wounds.
"This is I think a crisis of unprecedented magnitude in the Gaza Strip," said Mardini.
The wounded caseload from the seven weeks of protest had surpassed that of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
The Red Cross is planning to open a new 50-bed surgery unit at Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital to help deal with the surge in gunshot wounds.
Some 1,400 patients have been hit by three to five bullets, many in the legs, which require several complex orthopedic and reconstructive surgeries.
Mardini said the Red Cross was holding talks with Israeli defense forces to minimize civilian harm.
As a result of the talks, the Palestinian Red Cross has been able to send aid workers near the fence to evacuate the wounded to safety.
The protests peaked on May 14 when at least 61 Palestinians were killed as thousands approached the heavily guarded border fence on the same day the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Al-Quds.
AP, AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.