Middle East facing danger of 'full-scale conflict,' U.N. head warns following Iran attack on Israel

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during an emergency session of the Security Council in New York City, New York, on Sunday. Photo by Eskinder Debebe/U.N.
1 of 3 | U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during an emergency session of the Security Council in New York City, New York, on Sunday. Photo by Eskinder Debebe/U.N.

April 15 (UPI) -- The Middle East is facing the real danger of a "devastating full-scale conflict," United Nations head Antonio Guterres warned Sunday night as he called for restraint following Iran's attack on Israel.

"The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint," he said.


Guterres, director-general of the intergovernmental organization, made the remarks Sunday night during an emergency session of the Security Council called after Iran on Saturday launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel.

The vast majority of the weapons fired from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen were intercepted by Israel, the United States and their allies, but the attack raises fears of the war expanding.


Iran sought retribution from an attack early this month on its embassy complex in Syria, which resulted in the deaths of several military officers.

It was the first time that Iran has directly attacked Israel amid Israel's six-month war with Tehran's proxy militia Hamas in Gaza.

"It's time to step back from the brink," Guterres said.

"It is vital to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East. Civilians are already bearing the brunt and paying the highest price."

Israel had called the emergency meeting, during which its ambassador to the intergovernmental organization, Gilad Erdan, urged the 15-member council to impose "all possible sanctions on Iran before its too late."

He reiterated warnings Sunday that Iran, whom he compared to Nazi Germany, posed not only a threat to Israel but also wider world, and its actions threatened to escalate a regional conflict into a global one.

"Last night the world witnessed an unprecedented escalation that serves as the clearest proof for what happens when warnings aren't heeded," he said. "Israel is not the boy who cried wolf; we have been screaming from the rooftops for years trying to wake up the international community, but to no avail."


Iran has defended its attack, with its ambassador to the U.N., Amir Saeid Iravani, stating they were practicing their "inherent right to self defense" as outlined in the U.N. Charter.

He described the attack as concluded and proportionate, precise with only military sites targeted in an effort to prevent escalation and civilian casualties.

At least one child, a seven-year-old, was wounded in the Saturday strike.

Iravani also accused the United States and other Western countries of hypocrisy for shielding Israel from responsibility for the thousands of Palestinians civilians killed in Gaza amid its war against Hamas on the grounds of self defense while denying Iran its right to self defense when it retaliates for an attack on its diplomatic facility.

Meanwhile, the United States alternative ambassador to the council, Robert Wood, told the council that they are considering measures to impost against Iran in the United Nations over the attack.

He also warned that if Iran or its proxies attacked the United States, Tehran will be held responsible.

"The Security Council must unequivocally condemn Iran's aggressive actions and call for Iran and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks," he said.

Israel has been waging war against Hamas since the militant group launched a bloody surprise assault on Israel Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people with another 253 being taken hostage. More than 100 of the hostages are believed to still be Hamas captives.


The war by Israel has resulted in the deaths of nearly 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health.

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