An Israeli attack on Rafah would be 'nail in coffin' of Gaza aid: UN chief

AFP , Monday 26 Feb 2024

A full-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah would deliver a death blow to aid programs in Gaza, where humanitarian assistance remains "completely insufficient," the UN chief warned Monday.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers his remarks, during the opening of the High-Level Segment of the 55th session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.AP


Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Antonio Guterres said that Gaza's southernmost city, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are crowded together in tent cities, was "the core of the humanitarian aid operation" in the Palestinian territory.

"An all-out Israeli offensive on the city would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there; it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs," he said.

His comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated that his country was intent on a ground invasion in Rafah.

 'End the bloodshed' 

Guterres said Monday that "nothing can justify Hamas's deliberate killing, injuring, torturing and kidnapping of civilians, the use of sexual violence -- or the indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israel".

"And nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people," he said.

Amid a spiralling humanitarian crisis, UNRWA, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians, has urged political action to avert famine in Gaza.

But Guterres stressed that "humanitarian aid is still completely insufficient".

"I repeat my call for a humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages," he said.

He lamented that despite his urgent calls for the UN Security Council to take all measures to "end the bloodshed in Gaza and prevent escalation", it had failed to act.

As one of five permanent members of the 15-member council, the United States -- Israel's biggest ally -- has a veto that it has wielded three times so far to bar the body from calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

This inaction "has severely -- perhaps fatally -- undermined its authority," he cautioned.

"The council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods."

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