Relatives of a Palestinian, who was killed at the Israel-Gaza border, react at a hospital in Gaza City June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Relatives of a Palestinian who was killed at the Israel-Gaza border, at a hospital in Gaza City on June 18. Reuters

UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza



UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that Gaza is close to the brink of war and expressed his shock over the number of Palestinians killed and wounded by Israeli live fire during protests.

In a report on Monday, Mr Guterres told the Security Council that he "unequivocally condemns the steps by all parties that have brought us to this dangerous and fragile place" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The report was sent to the council last week before a meeting on Tuesday on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

The violence in Gaza marks the most serious escalation between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.

"It is and should be a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is," Mr Guterres said.

"I am shocked by the number of deaths and injuries of Palestinians resulting from the use of live fire by Israel Defence Forces" since protests began on March 30, he said.

At least 132 Palestinians have been killed. The Red Cross says more than 13,000 have been wounded, including 1,400 who suffered several gunshot wounds, many in the legs.

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Israel has a responsibility to "exercise maximum restraint" and protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law, the UN chief wrote.

"The killing of children, as well as of clearly identified journalists and medical staffers, by security forces during a demonstration are particularly unacceptable," he added.

Two Palestinian journalists were killed while covering the protests in April, while a 21-year-old medic was shot dead in early June.

Mr Guterres renewed his call for an independent investigation of the shooting deaths in Gaza. Israel has rejected the appeal and argues that the use of force is justified to defend its borders.

The UN chief criticised Hamas and other militant groups for attempting to put explosives near the fence and for shooting rockets at Israel on May 29 and 30.

He singled out "senior Israeli government officials" for asserting that all Palestinians were affiliated with Hamas, signalling a "permissive Israeli policy towards the use of live fire against protesters".

Israel's settlement activities "continue unabated", Mr Guterres added, citing a May 30 decision by Israel to approve 3,500 housing units in the West Bank – the largest batch of new housing since June last year.

The UN considers the expansion of settlements on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state to be illegal. Mr Guterres said the construction must "cease immediately and completely".

The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index

The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index

Mazen Abukhater, principal and actuary at global consultancy Mercer, Middle East, says the company’s Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index - which benchmarks 34 pension schemes across the globe to assess their adequacy, sustainability and integrity - included Saudi Arabia for the first time this year to offer a glimpse into the region.

The index highlighted fundamental issues for all 34 countries, such as a rapid ageing population and a low growth / low interest environment putting pressure on expected returns. It also highlighted the increasing popularity around the world of defined contribution schemes.

“Average life expectancy has been increasing by about three years every 10 years. Someone born in 1947 is expected to live until 85 whereas someone born in 2007 is expected to live to 103,” Mr Abukhater told the Mena Pensions Conference.

“Are our systems equipped to handle these kind of life expectancies in the future? If so many people retire at 60, they are going to be in retirement for 43 years – so we need to adapt our retirement age to our changing life expectancy.”

Saudi Arabia came in the middle of Mercer’s ranking with a score of 58.9. The report said the country's index could be raised by improving the minimum level of support for the poorest aged individuals and increasing the labour force participation rate at older ages as life expectancies rise.

Mr Abukhater said the challenges of an ageing population, increased life expectancy and some individuals relying solely on their government for financial support in their retirement years will put the system under strain.

“To relieve that pressure, governments need to consider whether it is time to switch to a defined contribution scheme so that individuals can supplement their own future with the help of government support,” he said.

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