The conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel's violent response to the protest along the border with the enclave has placed the region on the “brink of war" according to United Nations' Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Guterres, who expressed "shock" at Israel's use of live ammunition against the Palestinian population, said in a still to be released report: “Gaza has witnessed in the last three months the most serious escalation since the 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel. It is and should be a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is. Only by changing the reality on the ground can we avert another disastrous, lethal conflict."
The report is a result of a 2016 Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, which the Obama administration decided not to veto. The Israeli government, its lobby in the U.S. and Trump's transition team, tried to prevent it from passing, unsuccessfully in 2017. While the report still hasn't been made public, it was circulated to the 15 members of the Security Council last week and Barak Ravid, a reporter of Israel's Channel 10 news, got a copy.
In it, Guterres describes the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, highlighting the collapsing health system, the lack of electricity for 22 hours a day, and difficulties in transporting humanitarian aid such as water, sanitation, health and food items. The report also calls for Israel to restrain its use of force and condemns the murder of identified journalists and medical staff.
"Israel has a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire and to not use lethal force, except as a last resort against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. It must protect its citizens, but it must do so with due respect of international humanitarian law. 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 the Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman and other officials are responsible for the increasing violence and criticize his manipulative use of information to justify Israeli aggression on peaceful protesters.
"Israeli officials also made provocative and inflammatory statements. In a radio interview, a senior Israeli minister [Avigdor Lieberman]...falsely asserted that all Palestinians [in Gaza] are affiliated with Hamas, and thus by extension legitimate targets," he added.
The diplomat fell short, however, of placing complete responsibility on Israel and attempts to put some blame on Hamas.
"Hamas leadership’s incitement of protestors in Gaza inflamed and encouraged a highly volatile situation that contributed to violent actions at the fence and risked a serious escalation," Guterres said.
The report fails to detail the impact of the illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories on the conflict, although this was its original intention.
"Israel’s settlement activities continue unabated and undermine the hopes and the practical prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state," he wrote.
The Israeli Occupation Forces have killed at least 130 Palestinians since the beginning of the Gaza protests commemorating Land Day, the Nakba and against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem.