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UN Chief: ‘Gaza needs an immediate & sustained increase in humanitarian aid’

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On Wednesday (29 Nov), UN Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a poignant speech to the Security Council, addressing the grave situation in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian question and the recent resolution 2712.

Guterres highlighted the devastating impact of the conflict in Gaza and Israel, emphasizing the tragic death toll and widespread destruction. The Secretary-General reported over 1,200 deaths in Israel due to Hamas’ terror acts on 7 October, including abductions and sexual violence that demand a thorough investigation.

The situation in Gaza is equally dire, with over 14,000 Palestinians killed since the start of Israeli military operations. Guterres noted that a significant portion of the deceased are children and women, making this one of the deadliest periods for children in any conflict during his tenure.

Guterres praised the recent glimmer of hope as civilians received a respite from bombardments, family reunions, and increased aid. However, he stressed that before the pause, there had been serious violations of international law, including the displacement of 80% of Gaza’s population and significant destruction of homes and infrastructure.

The Secretary-General condemned the use of wide-area explosive weapons in populated areas and the ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups on Israeli population centers. He emphasized the need to protect civilians, UN personnel, and facilities, insisting on adherence to international humanitarian law.

The agency has verified 104 incidents that have impacted 82 UNRWA installations – 24 of which happened since the adoption of the resolution. A total of 218 internally displaced people sheltering in UNRWA schools have reportedly been killed and at least 894 injured.

“Let me put it plainly,” the UN chief highlighted, “Civilians – including United Nations personnel – must be protected. Civilian objects – including hospitals – must be protected. UN facilities must not be hit.” He reiterated, “International humanitarian law must be respected by all parties to the conflict at all times.”

Guterres welcomed the humanitarian pauses facilitated by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States, which have allowed for an increase in aid delivery. However, he expressed concern over the inadequacy of current aid levels, the broken medical system in Gaza, and the urgent need for enhanced humanitarian support.

He also addressed the issue of hostages held by Hamas, reporting some progress but insisting on their immediate and unconditional release.

Guterres noted that the arrangement announced on 22 November has so far led to the release, over 5 days, of 60 hostages – 29 women, 31 children – held by Hamas and other groups since 7 October. Outside the arrangement during the same period, another 21 hostages were released.

The Secretary-General also acknowledged the recent release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees but emphasized the need for more comprehensive measures.

Guterres said, “This is a welcome start. But as I have been saying from day one, all hostages must be released immediately and unconditionally. Until then, they must be treated humanely and the International Committee of the Red Cross must be allowed to visit them.”

The Secretary-General also noted that Gaza needs an immediate and sustained increase in humanitarian aid including food, water, fuel, blankets, medicines, and healthcare supplies.

He said, “That is why we have been urging the opening of other crossings, including Kerem Shalom, and the streamlining of inspection mechanisms to allow for the necessary increase of lifesaving aid. But humanitarian aid alone will not be sufficient. We also need the private sector to bring in critical basic commodities to replenish completely depleted shops.”

In closing, Guterres underscored the importance of Security Council resolution 2712 and the need for its full implementation.

He stressed that the success of these efforts should be measured not just in material aid delivered but in lives saved and dignity restored, calling for a genuine humanitarian ceasefire and a determined move towards a two-state solution, warning that failure would perpetuate a cycle of death and destruction.

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