United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, today condemned the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip which has led to the death of five Palestinians including a 14-month-old.

“I am deeply concerned by yet another dangerous escalation in Gaza and the tragic loss of life. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of all those who were killed, and I wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Mladenov said in a statement.

“The United Nations is working with Egypt and all sides to calm the situation. I call on all parties to immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months. Those who seek to destroy them will bear responsibility for a conflict that will have grave consequences for all.”

Israel struck the besieged Gaza Strip today using drones, helicopters and tank fire demolishing three residential buildings and killing five Palestinians including a pregnant mother and her 14-year-old daughter.

In his statement, the UN official said: “Continuing down the current path of escalation will quickly undo what has been achieved and destroy the chances for long term solutions to the crisis. This endless cycle of violence must end, and efforts must accelerate to realise a political solution to the crisis in Gaza.”

“The current violence jeopardises the significant progress made in recent weeks to relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, lift the closures, and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation.”

In recent months Palestinian factions have been holding indirect talks with the occupation in an effort to loosen the 12-year siege imposed on the Strip and bring respite to the Strip’s nearly two million residents. The talks would also bring to an end the year-long Great March of Return which has seen weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel fence calling for the Palestinian right of return and an end to the siege. – Middle East Monitor