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Middle East 'could be explosive,' Annan warns

Middle East 'could be explosive,' Annan warns, urging parties to avert escalation

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today warned that the situation in the Middle East has the potential to become explosive, and urged the parties to avert a further escalation.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan, who is traveling in Accra, Ghana, issued a statement once again condemning the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, such as the one which struck a school in the town of Ashkelon yesterday.

“He also calls again on the Government of Israel to refrain from actions that amount to collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, and to ensure delivery of fuel, commodities and other essentials into Gaza,” the spokesman said.

The Secretary-General repeated his reminder to both sides of their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. He also repeated his call for the immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who is being held by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

“The situation is dangerous and could be explosive,” he warned, urging all concerned to “step back from the brink.”

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