Gaza: ‘Unfolding catastrophe’ makes humanitarian ceasefire more urgent
“The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity,” he said, speaking to journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.
He also voiced ongoing grave concern over rising violence and an expansion of the conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, stating that “the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is at a boiling point.”
‘A graveyard for children’
Mr. Guterres highlighted how “the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour,” stressing that the protection of civilians is paramount.
“Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day,” he said.
“More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades. More United Nations aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of our organization.”
‘Ocean of need’
The humanitarian appeal – launched by the UN and partners - will assist the entire population in the Gaza Strip and half a million Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Mr. Guterres said that although some aid is getting into Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt, this “trickle of assistance does not meet the ocean of need.”
Over the past two weeks, 400 trucks have made the journey, compared with 500 a day prior to the conflict, and the aid deliveries have not included desperately needed fuel.
“Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die,” he warned. “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.
Humanitarian ceasefire now
The Secretary-General said the way forward is clear, repeating his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for all parties to respect international humanitarian law.
He reiterated his appeals for the unconditional release of all Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, and for the protection of civilians, hospitals, UN facilities, shelters and schools.
“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,” he said.
Conflict expanding, hate rising
Addressing the wider impacts of the conflict, Mr. Guterres pointed to the “spiral of escalation from Lebanon and Syria, to Iraq and Yemen”. Calling for an end, he said “cool heads and diplomatic efforts must prevail.”
Hateful rhetoric and provocative actions must also cease, he continued. Mr. Guterres said he was deeply troubled by the rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry, noting that both Jewish and Muslim communities in many parts of the world are on high alert, fearing for their personal safety and security.
With emotions at a fever pitch and tensions running high, “we must find a way to hold on to our common humanity,” he said.
“I think of civilians in Gaza – the vast majority women and children -- terrified by the relentless bombardment,” he said.
“I think of all those tortured and killed in Israel nearly one month ago and the hostages – abducted from their homes, their families, their friends while simply living their lives.”
Mourning UNRWA staff
The Secretary-General also joined the UN family in mourning 89 staff from its agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA, who have been killed in Gaza.
Many of these colleagues – who include teachers, school principals, doctors, engineers, guards and support staff - were killed along with their family members.
Among them was a young woman called Mai, who “did not let her muscular dystrophy or her wheelchair confine her dreams”, becoming a top student and eventually working in information technology for UNRWA.
In concluding his remarks, Mr. Guterres appealed for international action now towards “a way out of this brutal, awful, agonizing dead end of destruction”, including to help pave the way to peace and a two-State solution for Israelis and Palestinians.