Palestinians of Gaza in midst of 'epic humanitarian catastrophe': UN chief

AFP , Wednesday 29 Nov 2023

Gaza Palestinians are "in the midst of an epic humanitarian catastrophe before the eyes of the world," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday while calling for an expansion of the current pause on Israel's war against Gaza.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) speaks as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi listens during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East and Israel s war on the Gaza Strip, at the United Nations headquarters on November 29, 2023 in New York City. AFP


"Intense negotiations are taking place to prolong the truce -- which we strongly welcome -- but we believe we need a true humanitarian ceasefire," he said at a United Nations Security Council meeting.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told the meeting that the Palestinian people "are faced with an existential threat" amid the conflict.

"We are owed respect to our inherent dignity... Israel has no right to self-defense against a people that it occupies," he said.

The ongoing truce in Israel's war on Gaza is scheduled to expire early Thursday after a six-day pause in the Israeli bombardment of the strip that started on 7 October.

Under a truce deal reached by Hamas and Israel last Wednesday, Israel paused its bombardment of the Gaza Strip while 60 Israeli captives and 180 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged in a prisoner swap.

On Wednesday, Egypt and Qatar, who negotiated the current ceasefire, said they were working for a "sustainable" ceasefire.

Defying international calls for a permanent ceasefire, Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said that "anyone who supports a ceasefire basically supports Hamas's continued reign of terror in Gaza."

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that "(a resumption) in fighting would only most likely turn into a calamity that devours the whole region."

48-hour truce extension

After a 48-hour extension of an initial four-day truce, a new group of 12 captives -- 10 Israelis plus two Thais -- was freed from Gaza on Tuesday, with 30 Palestinians prisoners released by Israel.

"I welcome the arrangement reached by Israel and Hamas -- with the assistance of the governments of Qatar, Egypt and the United States," Guterres said.

The truce has brought a temporary halt to Israel's air and ground invasion of the strip that has killed more than 15,000 and injured more than 50,000, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.

"Meanwhile, an estimated 45 percent of all homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed," Guterres said.

The truce in Gaza has not ended Israel's aggression in the occupied West Bank, where an eight-year-old Palestinian boy and a teenager were killed by Israeli snipers in cold blood as they played on the street in Jenin on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Since 7 October, nearly 250 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers or settlers, according to the ministry.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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