Thursday May 23, 2024

Tragedy in Gaza necessitates urgent humanitarian cease-fire: UN chief

Published : 07 Nov 2023, 01:49

Updated : 07 Nov 2023, 02:07

  DF News Desk
People escape after an Israeli strike at a refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, on Nov. 6, 2023. Photo: Xinhua by Yasser Qudih.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza makes a humanitarian cease-fire more urgent with every passing hour, reported Xinhua.

The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity. The intensifying conflict is shaking the world, rattling the region and, most tragically, destroying so many innocent lives, he told a press conference.

Ground operations by the Israeli military and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and UN facilities, including shelters. No one is safe. At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately toward Israel, he said.

Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day. More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades. More UN aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of the world organization, he said.

"The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian cease-fire more urgent with every passing hour. The parties to the conflict - and, indeed, the international community - face an immediate and fundamental responsibility: to stop the inhuman collective suffering and dramatically expand humanitarian aid to Gaza," said Guterres.

Some life-saving aid is getting into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing. But the trickle of assistance does not meet the ocean of need, he said.

The Rafah crossing alone does not have the capacity to process aid trucks at the scale required. Just over 400 trucks have crossed into Gaza over the past two weeks, compared with 500 a day before the conflict. And crucially, this does not include fuel. Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die. Water cannot be pumped or purified. Raw sewage could soon start gushing onto the streets, further spreading disease. Trucks loaded with critical relief will be stranded, he warned.

The United Nations and partners are launching a humanitarian appeal worth 1.2 billion U.S. dollars to help 2.7 million people - the entire population of Gaza and half a million Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he said.

"The way forward is clear: a humanitarian cease-fire - now; all parties respecting all their obligations under international humanitarian law - now; the unconditional release of the hostages in Gaza - now; the protection of civilians, hospitals, UN facilities, shelters and schools - now; more food, more water, more medicine and of course fuel entering Gaza safely, swiftly and at the scale needed - now; unfettered access to deliver supplies to all people in need in Gaza - now; and the end of the use of civilians as human shields - now," said the UN chief.

None of these appeals should be conditional on the others, he said.

Guterres voiced grave concern about rising violence and an expansion of the conflict.

The occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is at a boiling point. And there is a need to address the risks of the conflict spilling over to the wider region, he said.

"We are already witnessing a spiral of escalation from Lebanon and Syria, to Iraq and Yemen. That escalation must stop. Cool heads and diplomatic efforts must prevail. Hateful rhetoric and provocative actions must cease," he said.

"I am deeply troubled by the rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry. Jewish and Muslim communities in many parts of the world are on high alert, fearing for their personal safety and security. Emotions are at a fever pitch. Tensions are running high," he added.

He called on UN member states to act now to find a way out of this brutal, awful, agonizing dead end of destruction - to help end the pain and suffering; to help heal the broken; and to help pave the way to peace, to a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living in peace and security.