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UN chief says Gaza becoming 'graveyard for children', urges ceasefire

By AFP - Nov 07,2023 - Last updated at Nov 07,2023

Palestinians pull a child from debris following an Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday (AFP photo)

UNITED NATIONS, United States — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday warned that the bombarded Gaza Strip was becoming a "graveyard for children," as he urged an immediate ceasefire in the Hamas-Israel conflict.

"The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour," he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

"The parties to the conflict, and, indeed, the international community,  face an immediate and fundamental responsibility: to stop this inhuman collective suffering and dramatically expand humanitarian aid to Gaza," he said.

"The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity."

Israel's strikes have killed 10,222 people, including more than 4,000 children, in the densely populated and besieged Gaza Strip, according to the health ministry.

Guterres also deplored the killings of media workers. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 36 journalists and media workers have been killed.

"More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades," Guterres said, adding that 89 UN aid workers have also been killed. 

Guterres was formally launching a recently announced $1.2 billion UN humanitarian appeal to help 2.7 million Palestinians over the entire Gaza Strip and parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Aid trucks have been coming into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, but the level remains well below that of before October 7, with Israel saying it needs time for security checks of vehicles. One restriction is that they are not bringing fuel. 

"Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die," Guterres said. 

"The way forward is clear. A humanitarian ceasefire — now. All parties respecting all their obligations under international humanitarian law," he said. 

Guterres again voiced alarm about the "clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing". 

"Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law," he said. 

Guterres did not name Israel on Monday. He outraged the country’s leaders on October 24 at a Security Council meeting where he alleged violations of humanitarian law and said that the Hamas attacks “did not occur in a vacuum”, leading Israeli officials to accuse the UN chief of justifying violence. 


Security Council stalemate 


The UN Security Council, which has yet to pass any text on the conflict, met again on Monday afternoon without a resolution. 

According to diplomatic sources, there is no consensus on whether to call any interruption in fighting a “ceasefire” or “humanitarian pause”.

“We talked about humanitarian pauses and we’re interested in pursuing language on that score,” US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said after the meeting. “But there are disagreements within the Council about whether that’s acceptable.”

And though all 15 members of the body recognise the “urgent humanitarian need” in Gaza, according to UAE Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, “the gaps remain on what is achievable on the ground”.

“Without a cessation of hostilities, or some kind of humanitarian truce that is immediately implemented... far too many more will continue to lose their lives,” she said, adding that the Security Council “feels enormous pressure to reach agreement”.

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