World 'cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza,' UN chief warns

The UN chief on Friday expressed "profound" concern over the growing tensions between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, saying the world "cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza."

"I felt compelled today to voice my profound concerns about escalation between Israel and Hezbollah along the Blue Line," Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York, hinting at "escalation in bellicose rhetoric from both sides as if an all-out war was imminent."

Warning against a wider regional conflict in the Middle East, Guterres said: "One rash move – one miscalculation -- could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination."

"Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza," he said.

Highlighting the loss of lives and many people being displaced with their homes and livelihoods destroyed, the UN chief drew attention to Israeli forces targeting several towns in southern Lebanon by explosions, causing forest fires that spread and threatened residential areas.

"Unexploded ordnance and remnants of war litter the landscape," he said, adding that such incidents "pose additional threats to people in both Israel and Lebanon and to United Nations and humanitarian personnel."

He urged full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, and immediate cessation of hostilities while protecting civilians.

"Children, journalists and medical workers should never be targeted," he said.

Guterres ruled out "military solution," saying that it "will only guarantee more suffering, more devastation to communities in Lebanon and Israel, and more potentially catastrophic consequences for the region."

"It is time for reason and rationality," he said, recalling that UN peacekeepers on the ground are working towards de-escalation and helping to prevent miscalculation.

Guterres stresed: "The cessation of hostilities and progress toward a permanent cease-fire is the only durable solution."

He affirmed UN's full support to diplomacy for ending violence, restoration of stability and preventing further humanitarian suffering.

"And we do so as we continue to press for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages and a real pathway to a two-State solution," he added.

Meanwhile, Iran's mission to UN on X warned Israel over "imprudent decision" leading the region into a new war.

"Undoubtedly, this war will have one ultimate loser, which is the Zionist regime," the mission wrote, adding that Hezbollah "has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon—perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate (Israeli) regime has come."

Tensions have soared along Lebanon's border with Israel amid cross-border attacks between the Lebanese Hezbollah group and Israeli forces as Tel Aviv pressed ahead with its deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 37,400 people since Oct. 7 last year following an attack by the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.