By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Iran warned in a social media post on Saturday that if Israel's "war crimes and genocide" are not stopped then the situation could spiral out of control with "far-reaching consequences."
The post on X by Iran's mission to the United Nations came after Axios reported Tehran warned Israel - in a message sent via the U.N. - that it would have to respond if Israel carries out a ground offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
"If the Israeli apartheid's war crimes & genocide are not halted immediately, the situation could spiral out of control & ricochet far-reaching consequences - the responsibility of which lies with the UN, the Security Council & the states steering the Council toward a dead end," Iran's U.N. mission posted.
Israel was preparing on Saturday to launch a ground assault against Iran-backed Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after telling Palestinians living in the densely populated territory to flee south towards a closed border with Egypt.
Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas in retaliation for an attack by the Palestinian Islamist group a week ago. Hamas stormed Israeli towns, killing 1,300 people and seizing scores of hostages - the worst attack on civilians in Israel's history.
Israeli jets and artillery have already subjected Gaza to the most intense bombardment it has ever seen, putting the enclave, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under total siege. Gaza authorities say more than 2,200 people have been killed.
The United States has been working to keep Iran out of the conflict and broader international diplomacy has been focused on preventing it from spilling over - particularly into Lebanon - and sparking a regional war.
Lebanon's Iran-backed, heavily armed Hezbollah group has clashed with Israel across the Lebanese border multiple times in the past week in the deadliest confrontations since they fought a month-long war in 2006.
U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland met with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut on Saturday, the United Nations said. Abdollahian then met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar, Al Jazeera TV reported.
When asked about the Axios report, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: "All of (Wennesland's) meetings have been to discuss diplomatic efforts to release hostages, secure humanitarian access and prevent a spillover of the conflict to the wider region. This includes his recent meetings in Lebanon."
Israel's mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the Axios report or the social media post by Iran.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Paul Grant and Chizu Nomiyama)