Nothing justifies collective punishment of the Palestinians: UN chief at Rafah border

Ahram Online , Saturday 23 Mar 2024

There is no justification for collective punishment of the Palestinian people, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit to the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing on Saturday.

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The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing


The UN chief said he came to the Egyptian city of Rafah "carrying the voices of the vast majority of countries in the world who are fed up with what is happening" in Gaza.

Palestinian children, women, and men are living an “endless nightmare” amid the Israeli war, now on its 169th day, he added, reiterating his call for an immediate ceasefire and urging Israel to show commitment to international humanitarian law.

“Homes have been demolished and entire families and generations have perished as famine besieges the population,” he told the reporters in front of the gate of the crossing, the only direct point between Egypt and Gaza.

Guterres stressed that a long line of blocked relief trucks on Egypt's side of the border with the Gaza Strip where people face starvation is a moral outrage.

"Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other," he said.

"That is more than tragic. It is a moral outrage,” he continued.

“It is time for a firm commitment from Israel to allow aid to reach all parts of Gaza, as well as the immediate release of all prisoners,” he noted.

Ahead of his visit to the crossing, Guterres visited t El-Arish General Hospital, where he met injured Palestinians who were receiving treatment.

"I came to shed light on the difficulties and pain suffered by the Palestinians in Gaza,” the UN official said during the presser, noting that he was greatly affected by the stories of the Palestinian injured.

Guterres also expressed his appreciation for Egypt's efforts in receiving wounded Palestinians and delivering relief aid to Gaza.

The UN would continue to work with Egypt to "streamline" the flow of aid into Gaza, he added.

Making a clear reference to Israel’s plan to storm the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the UN chief warned of the consequences of such a step at all levels.

“Any further onslaught against the Gaza Strip will make scenes even worse; worse for the Palestinian civilians, worse for the hostages and worse for all people of the region,” he added.

It is time for Israel to give an "ironclad commitment" for unfettered access to humanitarian goods throughout Gaza, said Guterres.

Israel has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians and injured almost 75,000 since 7 October.

It has also destroyed most of the homes and infrastructure in the strip, leaving the majority of the 2.4 million civilian population on the brink of famine.

On Friday, the UNSC failed to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the strip.

Guterres is set to hold a press conference with Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on Sunday.

Guterres, who previously visited Egypt's border with Gaza shortly after the outbreak of the war, is currently on a visit to Egypt and Jordan as part of his annual "solidarity trip" to Muslim countries marking the holy month of Ramadan.

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