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'Last chance' to avoid war between Israel and Gaza: UN envoy

Palestinians line up for Qatari aid-part of the tentative cease-fire between Israel and Hamas [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 May, 2019

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Nikolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to the Middle East, said parties must 'consolidate the understandings' of the ceasefire on a Monday visit to Gaza.

The UN envoy to the Middle East said it's the "last chance" to prevent an all-out conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

Nikolay Mladenov said on Monday that the "risk of war remains imminent," a week after a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers ended the worst fighting since a 2014 war.

The two sides reached a tentative truce last Monday with Palestinian officials saying Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm.

The spate of violence killed 25 Palestinians, including 10 militants, and four Israeli civilians.

Mladenov, inaugurating a solar power plant for a Gaza hospital, said parties must "consolidate the understandings" of the ceasefire.

The deal, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the UN, promises to let in fuel and humanitarian aid and ease the movement of people from the blockaded territory.

The remarks came as Qatari cash infusion, meant for thousands of needy families as part of the ceasefire understandings, arrived on Monday.

On Sunday, Israel reopened both the Erez crossing for people and Kerem Shalom crossing for goods after closing them during the deadly escalation earlier this month.

The Gaza Strip was subjected to intense Israeli strikes from the air and sea on the weekend of May 4 leading to the deaths of 25 Palestinians over two days - including two pregnant woman and a 14-month old baby, Saba Abu Arar.

The Palestinian dead also included a commander for Hamas' armed wing who Israel said it targeted due to his role in transferring money from Iran to militant groups in the Gaza Strip. It was a rare admission of a targeted killing by the Israeli army.

On the Israeli side, four civilians were killed by rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups.

The conflict broke out after four Palestinians were killed and two Israeli soldiers were wounded at a weekly demonstration held by Palestinians on the Gaza-Israel border.

'Uninhabitable Gaza'

Israel strictly controls both crossings and has enforced a siege on Gaza since 2007, shortly after Hamas took control of the coastal strip.

UN officials and rights activists have repeatedly called for Israel to lift the blockade against Gaza, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

The coastal enclave suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time.

Israel insists its blockade is necessary to isolate Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, scarring the besieged enclave.

Critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the coastal enclave's two million residents. The UN says Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020, but human rights organisations say Gaza has reached inhabitability now.

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