Home Uncategorized Gaza: ‘high time’ for ceasefire and hostage release, says Guterres

Gaza: ‘high time’ for ceasefire and hostage release, says Guterres

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Speaking in Jordan at an international conference prompted by the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, Mr. Guterres insisted that after more than eight months of intense hostilities, “the horror must stop”.

“I welcome the peace initiative recently outlined by President Biden and urge all parties to seize this opportunity and come to an agreement,” the UN chief said. “And I call on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. This includes facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid both into and inside Gaza, as they have committed. All available routes into Gaza must be operational – and the land routes are absolutely crucial.”

On Monday, the United States-drafted text urged Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal announced on 31 May by President Joe Biden that has already been accepted by Israel, according to the White House.

The text urges both parties to fully implement the terms of the proposal “without delay and without condition”. It was adopted by a large majority with 14 votes in favour and Russia abstaining – choosing not to exercise its veto power.

Standing by UNRWA

Highlighting the key role played in the battered enclave by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA – which has been attacked and ostracized by Israeli leaders – the Secretary-General insisted that its presence “will remain critical not only during the conflict, but afterwards”.

Latest reports from Gaza show that around 60 per cent of all residential buildings and at least 80 per cent of commercial facilities have been damaged by Israeli bombardment, the UN chief said, with health facilities and educational institutions reduced to rubble.

In addition, more than one million “deeply traumatized children in Gaza” need psychosocial support and the safety and hope their schools used to provide, Mr. Guterres said, before insisting that “only UNRWA has the capacity, skills, and networks needed to support the Palestinian people to face the immense challenge on health, on education and so much more.”

The head of UNRWA Phillipe Lazzarini confirmed once again during his remarks to the meeting that “there is no alternative” available to the skills and expertise of the organization he leads.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths reiterated that a permanent ceasefire is crucial. “Humanitarian aid must enter Gaza unobstructed to effectively address urgent needs”, he said.

Aid access obstacles endure

Echoing deep and repeated warning from humanitarians about the scale of the severe emergency across Gaza linked to the lack of aid access, the UN chief noted that “at least half of all humanitarian aid missions are denied access, impeded, or cancelled due to operational or security reasons”

In Geneva, meanwhile, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, expressed profound shock at the impact of the hostage release operation in Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp at the weekend.

OHCHR spokesperson Jeremy Laurence said that hundreds of Palestinians, – many of them civilians – were reportedly killed and injured and that the way the raid was conducted “in such a densely populated area seriously calls into question” whether Israeli forces respected the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, as set out under the laws of war.

Actions ‘may amount to war crimes’

“Our Office is also deeply distressed that Palestinian armed groups continue to hold many hostages, most of them civilians, which is prohibited by international humanitarian law. Furthermore, by holding hostages in such densely populated areas, the armed groups doing so are putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk from the hostilities”, Mr Laurence continued.

He said the actions carried out by both parties during Saturday’s assault “may amount to war crimes.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk welcomed Monday’s Security Council Resolution 2735 calling for a “full and complete ceasefire”, hostage releases and other phased moves including the exchange of prisoners held by Israel. 

“An immediate priority must be to ensure the full and unfettered flow of humanitarian aid to the desperate population of Gaza”, Mr. Laurence concluded.

‘Dying before their families’ eyes’ 

Separately, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that almost 3,000 malnourished children are at risk of “dying before their families’ eyes” as the Rafah offensive cuts them off from treatment. This figure equates to approximately three-quarters of the children who were estimated to be receiving life-saving care prior to the escalating conflict in Rafah.

“Unless treatment can be quickly resumed for these 3,000 children, they are at immediate and serious risk of becoming critically ill, acquiring life-threatening complications, and joining the growing list of boys and girls who have been killed by this senseless, man-made deprivation,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Adele Khodr.

The rising number of cases of malnutrition comes at the same time as treatment services are collapsing amid the ongoing military offensive in Gaza.

Malnourished children are at a heightened risk of catching diseases and suffering from other health issues due to limited access to safe water, sewage overflow, infrastructure damage, and a lack of hygiene items, according to UNICEF.

This risk is severely exacerbated by the reduced water production across Gaza. There is currently less than a quarter of water produced compared to the intensification of hostilities in October.

“Our warnings of mounting child deaths from a preventable combination of malnutrition, dehydration and disease should have mobilised immediate action to save children’s lives, and yet, this devastation continues,” Ms. Khodr said.

“With hospitals destroyed, treatments stopped and supplies scant, we are poising for more child suffering and deaths,” she added. 

 



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