UN Chief Fears Dangerous Escalation Beyond Gaza
Expressing alarm at Israel airstrikes on hospitals and refugee camps in Gaza, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said civilians have borne the brunt of the current fighting from the outset. He condemned Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack and Israel’s ongoing slaughter of civilians in Gaza.
“There is never any justification for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians. I appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of those civilians held hostage by Hamas. I condemn the killing of civilians in Gaza and I am dismayed by reports that two-thirds of those who have been killed are women and children.”
The UN chief reiterated his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas militants and other militant groups. He said depriving the people of Gaza of basic supplies was only compounding the human tragedy of the conflict.
UN Says Protection of Civilians Paramount
Over 8,500 people have been killed in Gaza, as per the territory’s Ministry of Health, including 3,547 children and over 2,000 women, as well as 480 elderly persons. Moreover, there are hundreds of bodies under the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes. And 670,000 internally displaced are sheltering in 150 UNRWA installations.
Guterres said civilians have borne the brunt of the current fighting from the outset. Protection of civilians on both sides is paramount and must be respected at all times. “I mourn and honor the United Nations colleagues who have tragically been killed in the bombardment of Gaza over the past three weeks. My heart goes out to the families of our colleagues who lost their lives in service.”
He reiterated the importance of respecting international humanitarian law – clear rules that cannot be ignored. “It is not an a la carte menu and cannot be applied selectively. All parties must abide by the rules, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.”
Palestinians Don’t Want to Leave Gaza
Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, urged for a humanitarian ceasefire saying it can at least stop the spiral of death. He said bringing help into Gaza was the most important humanitarian goal.
“Palestinians do not want to leave Gaza. They want aid to come into Gaza and that should be the priority. Forced displacement is also a consequence of the failure to uphold peace and security. And brutal conflict continues to be its main driver.”
Grandi highlight that the past three weeks have provided devastating proof that disregarding the basic rules of war is increasingly becoming the norm and not the exception, with innocent civilians killed in unprecedented numbers.