United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged “rapid, unhindered humanitarian access” to the besieged Gaza Strip as Israel continues its retaliation for deadly Hamas attacks.
“We now need food, water, medicine and fuel. We need it on a large scale and we need it to be sustained, it is not one small operation that is needed,” Mr Guterres said in Cairo, as calls for help to reach the population grew . area with 2.4 million inhabitants.
“In simple terms, this means that humanitarian workers must be able to receive aid and distribute it safely.”
The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza – the only entry or exit not controlled by Israel – was bombed four times by Israeli aircraft last week.
Egyptian state media said on Thursday that the border crossing will open on Friday, after US President Joe Biden struck a deal with Egypt and Israel to allow aid.
Biden said that “up to 20” of the hundreds of trucks waiting on the Egyptian side of the border will be allowed in to begin with.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths estimated that around 100 trucks a day were needed to meet needs in Gaza.
During a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Guterres called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
Shoukry said Saturday’s Cairo Peace Summit, which Guterres is likely to attend, will push for “de-escalation toward a ceasefire” and “ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.”
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Israel has been carrying out air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Hamas gunmen unleashed a massive attack on communities in southern Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Gaza’s health ministry says Israeli strikes have killed 3,785 people in the besieged Palestinian enclave, also mostly civilians.
Mr. Guterres called on Hamas “for the immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages taken into Israeli army number 203.
He also urged Israel to allow “immediate, unrestricted access to humanitarian aid” after the siege and bombing campaign led to an increasingly serious humanitarian crisis.
Guterres said that “the Palestinian people have legitimate and deep grievances” that nevertheless “cannot justify terrorist attacks.”
In turn, these “terrible” attacks “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he continued.
The UN has included journalists, health workers and UN staff among those killed in Gaza.
“International law must be respected,” Guterres said, adding that “the protection of civilians is a must.”
“Any attack on a hospital, school or UN building is prohibited under international law.”
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