UN chief Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Hamas militants that has devastated much of Gaza, demanding “action to end this divine nightmare ”.
Speaking in Cairo as the conflict entered its third week, Antonio Guterres said the Palestinian enclave of 2.4 million was experiencing a “humanitarian catastrophe”, with thousands dead and more than a million displaced.
“We meet in the heart of a region reeling from pain and one step away from the abyss,” he told the meeting attended by the leaders of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Italy, Spain and the Palestinian territories. President Mahmud Abbas.
The bloodshed began on October 7 when the Hamas group killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, maimed or burned on the first day of the raid, and took more than 200 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel says about 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in fighting before the army regained control of the attacked area.
Israel has hit back with a brutal bombing campaign, killing more than 4,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and cutting off supplies of water, electricity, fuel and food, according to the Hamas-led Health Ministry in Gaza.
Antonio Guterres said that “the grievances of the Palestinian people are legitimate and long lasting” after “56 years of occupation with no end in sight,” but stressed that “nothing can justify Hamas’ reprehensible attack that terrorized Israeli civilians.”
He then emphasized that “these abhorrent attacks can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II called for “an immediate end to the war on Gaza” and condemned what he called “global silence” over Palestinian death and suffering.
“The message the Arab world is hearing is loud and clear: Palestinian lives are less important than those of Israel. Our lives are less important than other lives,” he accused.
“The application of international law is optional. And human rights have limits – they stop at borders, they stop at race, and they stop at religion.”
– ‘We are not leaving’ –
The summit took place on the day a first convoy of aid trucks entered southern Gaza, which Antonio Guterres said needed to be expanded quickly, with “much more” aid.
The UN has said around 100 trucks a day are needed to meet worsening needs in Gaza.
The Palestinians need “a continued supply of aid to Gaza on the scale that is needed,” the UN chief told the “Summit for Peace” in Cairo.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi argued that the “only solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “justice” and said that “Palestinians must realize their legitimate rights to self-determination” and have “an independent state on their land.”
Mahmud Abbas emphasized his demand for a two-state solution and an “end to the Israeli occupation” and rejected what he warned could be a “second Nakba” – a reference to the more than 760,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their land. during the establishment of the State of Israel.
“We are not leaving,” he repeated three times at the end of his speech.
Cairo and Amman have repeatedly rejected calls for large numbers of refugees to enter Egypt from Gaza, warning that a “forced displacement” of Palestinians would lead to the “eradication of the Palestinian cause.”
Egypt and Jordan were the first Arab states to normalize relations with Israel, in 1979 and 1994 respectively, and have since been important mediators between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan urged that the current conflict would become “instead of a regional conflagration, a breeding ground for a just and lasting peace.”
He also condemned “unconditional military aid to Israel that serves only to maintain the occupation”, while Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan condemned the failure of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution called for a ceasefire after a US veto.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)