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UN rights chief says essential to avoid conflagration in Gaza war

FILE PHOTO: Volker Turk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, attends the high-level event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 11, 2023. REUTE

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations human rights chief on Monday it was imperative to avoid any exacerbation of the war in Gaza, warning that any conflagration could have broad repercussions across the Middle East and beyond the region.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Volker Turk said the war in Gaza, which has been raging since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel, had already spilled over in neighbouring countries.

“I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration,” said Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This would have implications for every country in the Middle East, and many beyond it.”

Turk described the military escalation in southern Lebanon between Israel, Hezbollah and other armed groups as “extremely worrying”.

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

The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between them since 2006.

The Gaza war began when Hamas stormed Israel on Oct. 7 in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.

The attack drew an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza. Health authorities in the enclave say more than 30,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed during the offensive.

Turk said last week that war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. They should be investigated and those responsible be held accountable, he said.

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