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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefs reporters on the situation in Gaza at the UN headquarters in New York, on January 15, 2024.

UN chief calls for humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza 100 days into conflict

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday again called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza as the conflict turns 100 days.
There is one solution to help address all the issues of the unprecedented level of civilian casualties and catastrophic humanitarian conditions in Gaza, the fate of the hostages, and the tensions that are spilling over across the region, he told reporters. “We need an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.”
Apart from the atrocities in Gaza, the cauldron of tensions in the occupied West Bank is boiling over with heightened violence compounding an already dire fiscal crisis for the Palestinian Authority. Tensions are also sky-high in the Red Sea and beyond and may soon be impossible to contain, he warned.
“I have serious concerns about daily exchanges of fire across the Blue Line. This risks triggering a broader escalation between Israel and Lebanon and profoundly affecting regional stability,” said Guterres. “I am profoundly worried by what is unfolding. It is my duty to convey this simple and direct message to all sides: stop playing with fire across the Blue Line, de-escalate, and bring hostilities to an end in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1701.”
One hundred days into the conflict, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is beyond words. Nowhere and no one is safe. Traumatised people are being pushed into increasingly limited areas in the south that are becoming intolerably and dangerously congested, said the UN chief.
While there have been some steps to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, life-saving relief is not getting to people who have endured months of relentless assault at anywhere near the scale needed. The long shadow of starvation is stalking the people of Gaza -- along with disease, malnutrition and other health threats, he said.
An effective aid operation in Gaza -- or anywhere else -- requires certain basics. It requires security. It requires an environment where staff can work in safety. It requires the necessary logistics and the resumption of commercial activity. The obstacles to aid are clear, he said.
The United Nations and its partners cannot effectively deliver humanitarian aid while Gaza is under such heavy, widespread and unrelenting bombardment. Since the outbreak of the conflict on Oct. 7, 152 UN staff members have been killed in Gaza -- the largest single loss of life in the history of the world organisation.
The aid operation faces significant hurdles at the Gaza border. Vital materials, including life-saving medical equipment and parts that are critical for the repair of water facilities and infrastructure, have been rejected with little or no explanation, disrupting the flow of critical supplies and the resumption of basic services.
The aid operation also faces major impediments to distribution within Gaza, he said.
“We are seeking to ramp up the response. But we need basic conditions in place,” Guterres said.
The parties must respect international humanitarian law, respect and protect civilians, and ensure their essential needs are met. And there must be an immediate and massive increase in the commercial supply of essential goods. The UN and humanitarian partners cannot alone provide basic necessities that should also be available in markets to the entire population,” he said.
Nothing can justify the violence by Hamas. At the same time, the onslaught on Gaza by Israeli forces over these 100 days has unleashed wholesale destruction and levels of civilian killings at a rate that is unprecedented during his years as UN secretary-general. The vast majority of those killed are women and children. Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, said Guterres.

(Latest Update January 16, 2024)

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