Gaza 'powder keg' could spark wider war, says UN rights chief Turk

Gaza 'powder keg' could spark wider war, says UN rights chief Turk
UN human rights chief Volker Turk said he was 'deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration'.
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Volker Turk is the UN human rights chief [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty-archive]

The Gaza war is a "powder keg" with the potential to spark broader conflict in the Middle East, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Monday.

Turk said it was imperative to to take all possible measures to avoid a wider conflagration.

"The war in Gaza has already generated dangerous spillover in neighbouring countries," he said in his global update to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

"I am deeply concerned that in this powder keg, any spark could lead to a much broader conflagration. This would have implications for every country in the Middle East and many beyond it."

He said that overlapping emergencies made the spectre of spillover conflict very real, and cited the examples of Yemen and Lebanon as places where the Gaza war is having a wider effect.

"The military escalation in southern Lebanon between Israel, Hezbollah and other armed groups is extremely worrying," Turk said.

The UN high commissioner for human rights said almost 200 people had been killed in Lebanon and some 90,000 internally displaced.

There was also extensive damage to health facilities, schools and vital infrastructure.

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"Incidents in which civilians, including children, paramedics and journalists, have been killed in attacks must be fully investigated," said Turk.

Some 80,000 people have also been displaced from areas in northern Israel along the country's border with Lebanon, he added.

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

Yemen concerns

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been targeting Red Sea shipping for months in protest at Israel's war on Gaza, which has so far killed more than 30,600 people.

The Houthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, say they are attacking Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the besieged territory.

The unrest has forced several companies to reroute shipments in the commercially vital waterway, driving up delivery times and costs.

The United States, Israel's key ally, has led reprisal strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in a bid to quash the attacks.

Turk said the Houthi attacks had not only disrupted global maritime trade but had driven up the price of goods, which has had a significant impact on developing countries.

"There is a serious risk of the conflict extending to Yemen itself, with potentially severe harm to Yemen's people, already suffering from the humanitarian crisis generated by a decade of war," he said.