UN envoy: Gaza escalation a warning

that ‘brink of war’ near

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Mideast envoy told an emergency Security Council meeting Wednesday that the latest escalation in Gaza between its Hamas rulers and Israel is a warning of “how close to the brink of war we are every day.”

Nikolay Mladenov said the international community should “unequivocally condemn” Hamas’ massive attack against Israel using 216 rockets and mortars. Israel responded with 65 airstrikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.

Mladenov called it the most serious escalation since the 2014 Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Hamas said earlier Wednesday it had agreed to a cease-fire, and Mladenov said that since 5 a.m. local time there have been no attacks by either side.

“It is imperative that this period of calm be preserved at all costs,” he said. “No one in Gaza can afford another war. No one has the right to play with the lives of two million people who have lived through hell in the last decade.”

Killings by Belgian inmate treated

as terror; IS claims role

BRUSSELS (AP) — A Belgian prison inmate who killed four people while on furlough committed “terrorist murder” and likely intended to cause more harm, prosecutors said Wednesday as authorities searched for possible accomplices and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the bloodshed.

The convict who stabbed two police officers in the city of Liege and used their handguns to kill them and a bystander was a “soldier of the caliphate,” IS said in a brief statement on the site of its Aamaq news agency.

Such wording is typical of the claims IS makes even when slaying suspects have not been linked directly to the terror group. Belgian authorities have not said if they have evidence the inmate had vowed allegiance to IS or was acting on its orders.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon noted that Benjamin Herman, the Belgian national named as the Liege killer, killed a fourth person on Monday night away from the eastern industrial town.

Herman, 31, a convert to Islam, was known to local authorities as a repeat offender involved in petty crime and drugs. He spent most of his time in prison since 2003 and was on a two-day leave when he launched his attack. Police shot him dead not long after.