‘Deep and dangerous abyss’: UN envoy warns Middle East is on the brink

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The escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas is pushing the Middle East region into the precipice of a “dangerous abyss,” with the risk of the conflict conflagrating, the United Nations’ Middle East envoy warned.

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, fears that “the world is at the brink of a deep and dangerous abyss that could change the trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“This is one of the most difficult moments facing the Israeli and Palestinian people in the last 75 years,” he said at the at the U.N. Security Council via a video link.

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants launched a multi-pronged attack by land, sea and air and infiltrated Israel, killing more than 1,000 people and abducting 200 people, including babies and the elderly.

In response, Israel retaliated with airstrikes into the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas. Since then, the enclave has been subject to days of aerial bombardment.

The next step must be collective efforts to end the hostilities and prevent the conflict’s expansion in the region.

Tor Wennesland

UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process

Wennesland warned that developments since then had “served to reignite grievances and reanimate alliances across the region.”

The risk of an expansion of the conflict is “very, very real and extremely dangerous,” he added.

Human rights agencies have decried a deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where food, water and power are running out after Israel cut off supplies.

On Tuesday evening, the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City was bombed, killing hundreds of people and igniting protests across the Middle East and beyond. The hospital served as a refuge for those seeking shelter from Israeli airstrikes.

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The death toll from the escalating conflict continues to tick higher, with more than 1,400 people in Israel killed, and 3,500 injured, according to the government’s press office. The Palestinian Health Ministry, meanwhile, reported that over 3,300 people were killed in Gaza and approximately 12,500 were injured.

In a press release statement, Wennesland said meetings with Egyptian leaders focused on facilitating humanitarian assistance through the Rafah crossing, which is located on the Gaza-Egypt border and is the sole passage point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

“The next step must be collective efforts to end the hostilities and prevent the conflict’s expansion in the region,” said Wennesland.

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