UN chief calls for 'immediate' ceasefire in Gaza

AFP , Monday 15 Jan 2024

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Monday for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip, as the fighting passed the 100-day milestone.

Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters in New York City. AFP


"We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. To ensure sufficient aid gets to where it is needed. To facilitate the release of the captives. To tamp down the flames of wider war because the longer the conflict in Gaza continues, the greater the risk of escalation and miscalculation," Guterres said at a press briefing in New York.

The war sparked on October 7, has created a humanitarian catastrophe for the 2.4 million people in the besieged strip, the United Nations and aid groups warn, and reduced much of the Palestinian territory to rubble.

Israel launched a relentless military campaign in Gaza that has killed at least 24,100 people, 70% women, and children, with another 60,834 wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry's latest figures.

The UN says more than three months of fighting have displaced roughly 85% of the territory's population, crowded into shelters and struggling to get food, water, fuel, and medical care.

Guterres condemned a humanitarian situation in Gaza that he said was "beyond words."

The "vast majority" of the UN's Palestinian staff have fled their homes and 152 staff members have been killed since October 7, Guterres said, "the largest single loss of life in the history of our organization."

With aid deliveries struggling to get through to a "traumatized people," Gaza now faces "the long shadow of starvation."

"Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people," Guterres said.

The UN leader also warned about what he said was an escalating spillover of the conflict, including across the Lebanon-Israeli border. 

"This risks triggering a broader escalation... and profoundly affecting regional stability," he said.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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