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UN Calls for Restraint by Israel, Extremist Groups

The U.N.'s top humanitarian official is calling on Israel and on extremist groups in Gaza and Lebanon to show restraint, and to refrain from attacking civilians and civilian installations. He warns the situation in Gaza is developing into a humanitarian crisis.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland says none of the children and few of the civilians in Gaza have anything to do with what he calls the totally unacceptable use of violence by extremist groups against Israel. But, he says, all are affected by, what he calls, "Israel's disproportionate response." He says the United Nations is equally concerned about civilians in Lebanon.

At a news conference at the U.N. offices in Geneva, Egeland warned the situation could spin out of control, and called for the release of Israeli soldiers captured by militants in Gaza and Lebanon.

"What we fear is that we are now going to go downwards in a spiral towards a situation that can become totally uncontrollable," he said. "So, our call now is for restraint, not disproportionate responses, no more homemade or other rockets going into Israel or anywhere else, and all kidnapped people, whether civilians or soldiers to be released."

Egeland says conditions in the Palestinian territories have never been as bad as they are now. He says 1.4 million people live in overcrowded conditions. And, their plight has been made worse with Israel's destruction of Gaza's only power plant. He says water and sanitation are a problem, disease is spreading and people have little food to eat.

The U.N. held a special meeting Friday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Egeland says a number of the 30 donor countries who attended, including Japan, the United States and European Commission, have pledged important new contributions. The U.N. so far, only has received a third of the $380 million appeal it launched for the Palestinians.

But Egeland said the Palestinians also share some of the blame for their own plight.

"There is occupation of these areas, but those who kidnap Israeli soldiers from within Israel, those who send home made rockets virtually every day inside Israel, whether that is from Gaza or from southern Lebanon, should understand there will be a response," he added. "It seems they want to provoke a response and they do not seem to care the slightest bit that there is the children and the women and the civilians that bear the brunt of all of this."

Egeland warns both the Israelis and Palestinians will have decreased security from these operations, because there will be more hatred and more people committing extremist acts.