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U.N. Envoy: Another Gaza war could spark a regional conflict – Arab-Israeli Conflict

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, May 29, 2018.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Another Gaza war could spark a regional conflict, UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told Army Radio in an interview published on Wednesday.

“What unites everyone both here in the region and internationally is that no one wants to see another war in Gaza,” Mladenov said during the interview, which took place this week.

“It would be much more devastating than 2014, it would engage the region. We can still do what we need to do to prevent that from happening,” he said.

Mladenov explained that the UN has had a critical role in reducing the possibility of such an outbreak. “If we stop the humanitarian aid. If we stop running the schools and running the hospitals or providing fuel, you will have a war in a couple of days.”

He is working on humanitarian plan to help ease the plight of the two million people in Gaza.

Israel placed restrictions on the flow of goods going in and out of Gaza, since Hamas took over the Strip from Fatah  in violent coup in 2007.

The situation has been exacerbated in the last year. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has taken economic measures against Gaza in hopes of forcing Hamas to relinquish control of the Strip.

While addressing the AJC Global Forum on Monday, Mladenov said he would like to see a plan that exchanged economic assistance to Gaza with a Hamas pledge to refrain from violence against Israel.

Such measures could be used “to get from those responsible for the situation in Gaza [Hamas] a commitment to keep the situation quiet and to  keep security and reduce and the amount of rockets and attacks against Israel.”

Army Radio suggested that Mladenov had told them he was not planning to prioritize the release of the bodies of two IDF soldiers as well as two other Israelis held in Gaza, as part of that plan.

“Nothing comes for free. Unfortunately and I say this with great regret, today our focus being on preventing war and preventing a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, but I believe that if we improve the situation for people in Gaza we create a constituency, we create a basis through which to  address all these other issues,” Mladenov said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman demanded on Tuesday that Israel exchange economic aid for the return to the hostages.

“The return of the captives and missing soldiers opens a huge window that promises humanitarian and economic assistance for all the residents of Gaza,” Liberman said.

In his Army Radio interview, Mladenov also pushed backed against the Israeli belief that the UN is biased on Israel, explaining that the international body’s efforts had helped rather than harmed Israel.

“If we stop talking to both the Israelis and the Palestinians, I assure you the picture that will be presented of this conflict internationally will be far more difficult and far more biased,”  Mladenov told Army Radio.

He added that he believed it would be difficult to move forward on the peace process at this time. The international community should do its best create conditions to allow for such talks to be productive, he said.

“If you take Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen today and you put them in the same room, there is little they can negotiate.

“What we need to do is to make sure that we support both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the conditions that would make such a meeting meaningful and such a discussion productive,” Mladenov added.

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