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Guterres deplores 'clear violations' in Gaza, urges truce

UN urges improved coordination on Gaza aid

By AFP - Oct 25,2023 - Last updated at Oct 25,2023

A Palestinian man walks amid the rubble of buildings hit in Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday (AFP photo)

UNITED NATIONS, United States — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday alleged violations of international law as Israel pounds Gaza, and urged an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to bring in relief.

"I am deeply concerned about the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza. Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law," Guterres told a Security Council session, without explicitly naming Israel.

Guterres, who personally travelled to the crossing between Egypt and Gaza in a push to let in assistance, welcomed the crossing of three aid convoys so far through the Rafah crossing.

"But it is a drop of aid in an ocean of need. In addition, our UN fuel supplies in Gaza will run out in a matter of days. That would be another disaster," Guterres said.

 

“To ease epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer, and facilitate the release of hostages, I reiterate my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

The Security Council session is bringing together top diplomats including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has previously rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying it would only allow Hamas to regroup.

More than 5,700 Palestinians have been killed across the Gaza Strip in retaliatory Israeli bombardments, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry said.

The United Nations on Tuesday called for improved coordination among humanitarian groups in making sure the small amount of aid now moving into the Gaza Strip contained only the most needed items.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, warned it would be forced to stop working across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday unless there were urgent fuel deliveries to the war-torn territory.

“If we do not get fuel urgently, we will be forced to halt our operations in the Gaza Strip as of tomorrow night,” UNRWA said on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

Aid agencies have sounded the alarm about the lack of fuel, which is used to power vital services in Gaza such as hospitals which are relying on generators.

“Time is running out. We urgently need fuel,” Juliette Touma, UNRWA communications director, told AFP.

Six hospitals across Gaza have already shut down due to the lack of fuel, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday.

The relief agency also said that some of the food delivered into Gaza so far, such as rice and lentils, had been impractical given the dwindling availability of fresh water and fuel.

Israel has cut off water, food, fuel and energy supplies to Gaza, and only a trickle of aid has been allowed in from Egypt in recent days under a US-brokered deal.

“An additional challenge in a very limited flow of supplies is that we are not really receiving the most needed supplies for Gaza, or the most relevant,” UNRWA spokeswoman Tamara Alrifai said.

“In one of the shipments over the last couple of days, we received boxes of rice and lentils,” she told journalists at the UN in Geneva via video-link from the Jordanian capital Amman, where UNRWA has its headquarters.

“But for people to cook lentils and rice, they need water and gas. And therefore these kinds of supplies, while very generous and well intended, are not very usable right now,” she said.

Alrifai added that before October 7, around 500 trucks a day were entering Gaza from Israel and Egypt, with a mixture of commercial goods, food, aid and fuel.

But only a few dozen trucks carrying food, medicine and water have entered Gaza via the southern border with Egypt since a deal entered into operation on Saturday.

“We will need to get better as a consortium of humanitarians in sending very explicit lists of what is most needed,” Alrifai said.

 

Medical aid 

 

Meanwhile, the WHO said it had been unable to distribute any life-saving health supplies from the truck convoys to major hospitals in northern Gaza, because of a lack of security guarantees.

It said the main Al-Shifa hospital in the north now had three patients for every two beds.

“In addition to the hospitals that have had to close due to damage and attacks, six hospitals across the Gaza Strip have already shut down due to lack of fuel,” the WHO said in a statement.

Medical supplies have been delivered to four hospitals in southern Gaza and medics “took boxes of supplies off the trucks and straight into operating theatres, where doctors have been performing surgeries without anaesthesia or other basic surgical supplies”, the agency said.

 

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