UN envoy urges calm in Gaza amid worst flare-up in months

The UN Middle East envoy urged on Wednesday Israel and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip to de-escalate the worst flare-up in the region in the last months.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement issued by his office that he was “very concerned” by the escalation which broke out on Tuesday after the killing of Baha Abu al-Atta, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza.

The flare-up, which has claimed the lives of at least 22 Palestinians, is “very dangerous,” said Mladenov.

“It is yet another attempt to undermine the efforts to improve the dire socio-economic conditions in Gaza and prevent another devastating conflict,” he added.

The UN envoy strongly condemned the rocket fire by Islamic Jihad militants at Israeli communities. Some 350 rockets have reached Israel since Tuesday, injuring at least three people.

“The indiscriminate launch of rockets and mortars against population centers is absolutely unacceptable and must stop immediately,” Mladenov said. “There can be no justification for any attacks against civilians.”

Earlier in the day, Mladenov travelled from Tel Aviv to the Egyptian capital Cairo as part of an international bid to broker calm.

“The UN is working to urgently de-escalate the situation,” Mladenov said, without elaborating.

The violence was triggered by Israeli predawn airstrikes on the home of al-Atta in Gaza City, which killed al-Atta and his wife in their bedroom.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, the Israeli airstrikes killed at least 22 people, including four children and teenagers, and wounded 71 others, including 30 children and 14 women.