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UN chief calls for urgent steps to de-escalate situation in Gaza, surrounding areas

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday urgently appealed for measures to reduce tensions in Gaza and its neighboring regions.
“I call for urgent steps to de-escalate the situation and spare the region from more violence before it is too late,” the top UN official told the meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.


“As we seek to address mounting needs in Gaza, we also remain focused on the deteriorating situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” said the secretary-general. “I am extremely alarmed by the high levels of settler violence in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian attacks against Israelis also continue.”
“All of this violence must stop, and the perpetrators held accountable,” he said.
The secretary-general commended the vital role of the committee amid the protracted Question of Palestine and escalating violence, particularly highlighted by the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel and Israel’s ensuing military operations in Gaza.
Describing the aftermath in Gaza as “a scar on our shared humanity and conscience,” the secretary-general lamented the “death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss, and grief” over the past 120 days.
Highlighting the relentless bombardment and conflict, he said, “The ongoing conflict and relentless bombardment by Israeli forces across Gaza have resulted in killings of civilians and destruction at a pace and scale unlike anything we have witnessed in recent years.”
He expressed horror at the military strikes that “have killed and maimed civilians,” emphasising that over “26,750 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in Gaza alone - more than two-thirds women and children.”
Guterres pointed out the severe impact on civilian infrastructure, with “over 70 percent... including homes, hospitals, schools, water, and sanitation facilities in Gaza - have been destroyed or severely damaged,” leading to 1.7 million displacements.
Reaffirming the principles of international humanitarian law, he stressed that “no party to an armed conflict is above international law.”
The secretary-general also addressed serious allegations against staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), saying that “I was personally horrified by these accusations.” He outlined steps being taken to address them, highlighting the importance of UNRWA’s “vital work.”
With Gaza’s humanitarian system on the brink of collapse and 2.2 million people facing “inhumane conditions,” the secretary-general called for “rapid, safe, unhindered, expanded and sustained humanitarian access throughout Gaza.”
He emphasised the need for more crossing points to ease congestion and ensure continuous humanitarian access, alongside a plea for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
Guterres concluded with a call for progress toward a two-state solution. “Only the two-state solution... can ensure the realisation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as well as a just and lasting peace and stability in the region.”
He urged the international community to remain steadfast in its commitment to advancing a meaningful peace process. 

(Latest Update February 2, 2024)

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