UN chief at Rafah crossing says Gaza aid convoy 'the difference between life and death'

Ahram Online , Friday 20 Oct 2023

In a press conference on Friday in front of Egypt's Rafah crossing, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the aid convoys that have been held up waiting for safe passage into Gaza are “a lifeline and the difference between life and death for so many” in the embattled enclave.

Antonio Guterres
The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing, Egypt, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. AFP


In a passionate speech, Guterres pointed behind himself and spoke of the two million Gazans trapped in the territory without sufficient supplies and under fire now for nearly two weeks.

The UN chief arrived at the Egyptian side of the crossing with Gaza earlier today to witness UN preparations to deliver much-needed support to Gazan civilians, per an agreement between Egypt, the US and Israel.

The humanitarian aid agreement came with “some conditions and some restrictions,” said Guterres. He added that the UN is working to “clarify those conditions.”

Israel has put Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, under a total blockade, cutting all food, water, and fuel supplies and putting the enclave at risk of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Convoys of life-saving aid stretching for miles intended for the war-torn Gaza Strip have been held up, stalled by four aerial bombings by Israeli forces.

Guterres stressed the "absolute” need to have these trucks moving as soon as possible at scale and on a sustained basis.

"We need to have these trucks moving as quickly as possible and as many as necessary...We are not looking for one convoy to come...[we need them] to go every day into Gaza to provide enough support for the Gazan people," he added.

The UN leader reiterated his call for a humanitarian ceasefire, stressing that such a step would make the delivery of aid easier and safer for everyone.

“This is not a normal humanitarian operation, it is an operation in a war zone, and this is the reason why I have appealed for a humanitarian ceasefire, Guterres said.

He added, "We do not want to punish the Gazan people twice: the first because of the war and the second because of a lack of humanitarian aid.”

He said he is in touch with all parties to remove the conditions that impede the entry of this aid into Gaza.

"We are actively engaging with all the parties, with Egypt, Israel, the United States... in order to have these trucks moving as soon as possible," Guterres added during the conference.

Rafah is the only crossing into the blockaded Palestinian territory that is not controlled by Israel.

He also noted that Egypt is the "fundamental pillar" of hope on the Gazan side of the border, in the form of aid.

Guterres expressed his own hope that there will be peace one day in the future under a two-state solution.

Israel’s round-the-clock air strikes on Palestinian territory have killed over 4,000 civilians, including at least 1,000 children, and injured 12,065 more.

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