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Gazans in midst of 'epic humanitarian catastrophe' — UN chief

By AFP - Nov 30,2023 - Last updated at Nov 30,2023

A wounded Palestinian woman from the Baraka family is surrounded by her children upon their arrival at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip following Israeli air strikes that hit their building on November 13 (AFP photo)

UNITED NATIONS, United States — Gazans are "in the midst of an epic humanitarian catastrophe before the eyes of the world", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday, while calling for an expansion of the current pause in the Israeli war on Gaza. 

"Intense negotiations are taking place to prolong the truce, which we strongly welcome, but we believe we need a true humanitarian ceasefire," he said at a United Nations Security Council meeting.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki told the meeting that the Palestinian people "are faced with an existential threat" amid the conflict.

"We are owed respect to our inherent dignity... Israel has no right to self-defence against a people that it occupies," he said.

The ongoing truce in the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas is scheduled to expire early Thursday after a six-day pause in the fighting, which was sparked by sudden Hamas attacks on October 7 that prompted a devastating Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

With 60 Israelis and180 Palestinian prisoners already released and more set to walk free on Wednesday under the agreement, conflict mediator Qatar said negotiators were working for a "sustainable" ceasefire.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “[a resumption] in fighting would only most likely turn into a calamity that devours the whole region”.

48-hour truce extension 


After a 48-hour extension of an initial four-day truce, a new group of 12 hostages, 10 Israelis plus two Thais, was freed from Gaza on Tuesday, with 30 Palestinians released by Israel.

“I welcome the arrangement reached by Israel and Hamas, with the assistance of the governments of Qatar, Egypt and the United States,” Guterres said.

The truce has brought a temporary halt to the fighting that began last month following sudden attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7.  Israel’s subsequent air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to health officials in Gaza, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.

“Meanwhile, an estimated 45 per cent of all homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed,” Guterres said.

The truce in Gaza has not ended violence in the occupied West Bank, where an eight-year-old Palestinian boy and a teenager were killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Since the October 7 sudden attacks, more than 230 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers or settlers, according to the ministry.

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