UN officials are “in close contact with all concerned to urge maximum restraint” following “horrific scenes of violence” that have left dozens dead and hundreds wounded in Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip amid rocket attacks by armed Palestinian militants early Saturday morning.
“I vehemently condemn this morning’s multi-front assault against Israeli towns and cities near the Gaza Strip and barrage of rockets reaching across central Israel by Hamas militants,” said Tor Wennesland, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
Reports of hostages
“These events have resulted in horrific scenes of violence and many Israeli fatalities and injuries, with many believed to be kidnapped inside the Strip,” he said. “These are heinous attacks targeting civilians and must stop immediately.”
Deeply concerned for the well-being of all civilians, he said he is “in close contact with all concerned to urge maximum restraint”.
“This is a dangerous precipice and I appeal to all to pull back from the brink,” he said, calling on all sides to protect civilians.
‘Possibly thousands of indiscriminate rockets’
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk echoed that concern.
“Civilians must never be the target of attack,” he said, pointing to reports that Israelis have been taken hostage.
“I am shocked and appalled at reports this morning that hundreds, possibly thousands, of indiscriminate rockets have been fired by Palestinian armed groups towards Israel, and that at least 22 Israelis have been killed and hundreds injured.”
Airstrikes in Gaza
Noting that Israeli forces have responded with air strikes into the densely populated Gaza Strip, he called on them to “take all precautions to avoid civilian casualties there”.
“I call for an immediate stop to the violence, and appeal to all sides and key countries in the region to de-escalate to avoid further bloodshed,” he said.