Emergency summit presses Gaza aid and ceasefire

AFP , Tuesday 11 Jun 2024

Leaders at an emergency summit on Gaza's humanitarian crisis pleaded Tuesday for greater aid access into the war-ravaged territory and backed a US-proposed ceasefire as the only long-term solution.

Jordan s emergency summit for Gaza aid
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan s King Abdullah (C-R) and Crown Prince Hussein (C-L) attending a plenary session during the emergency aid summit entitled Call for Action: Urgent Humanitarian Response for Gaza , in Sweimeh on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan on June 11, 2024. AFP


Jordan invited leaders from around the world to its Dead Sea coast for urgent talks as aid groups warn that conditions are worse than ever in Gaza, with virtually the whole population of more than two million people relying on sporadic aid deliveries.

"The horror must stop," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the conference.

"The speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza is beyond anything in my years as secretary-general," he said.

UN humanitarian coordination Martin Griffiths described the Gaza war as a "stain on our humanity" and appealed for $2.5 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Gaza residents from April until December.

Guterres voiced his backing for a ceasefire plan put forth by US President Joe Biden, under which Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centers and Hamas would free captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to the Jordan conference from Israel where he made his latest push for the deal, insisting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was on board and that it was up to Hamas to agree.

But Blinken and others have said that there was no time to waste on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of the risk of famine.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, an outspoken critic of Israel's military operation, announced that his government would offer another 16 million euros ($17 million) in assistance.

Sanchez said that people around the world were looking to leaders to achieve "concrete results and actions to stop the suffering in Gaza".

He praised the US diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, saying that "now we call on Hamas and Israel to act responsibly and seize the new opportunity in front of us".

The incoming leader of Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, Prabowo Subianto, also travelled to the conference in Jordan and renewed offers to help.

He said Indonesia was ready to send medical teams, a field hospital and a hospital ship as well as to evacuate 1,000 people for medical treatment.

"Although we are willing to support and contribute to all these efforts, the final solution to this problem is a two-state solution," Prabowo said.

Drastic aid needs 

Israel's brutal millitary campaign on the Gaza Strip since Oct.7, has killed at least 37,164 people, 70 % of them women and children, with another more than 84,832 people wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry's latest figures.

The toll includes at least 40 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement saidMuch of Gaza has been reduced to rubble and nearly all of its 2.4 million people displaced by the war that began on October 7 with Hamas's attack on southern Israel.

Despite major initiatives including a specially built US pier, aid to Gaza remains severely restricted, particularly since the closure of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only link between Palestinians and the outside world, as the rest of the crossings were closed by Israel.

On 7 May, Israel launched its assault on Rafah, taking over the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for the first time since Israel pulled out its soldiers and settlers from the strip in 2005.

Egypt rejected the Israeli presence at the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

“It would be difficult for the Rafah crossing to continue operating without Palestinian administration on the Palestinian side,” Egypt's minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said.

"This is naturally a component of any solution to the current situation,” he added.

Since that time, no humanitarian aid has entered to a population facing famine in Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

Guterres on Tuesday said that since the closure of the border, "the flow of critical humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, which was already woefully inadequate, has plummeted by two-thirds".

He estimated that more than 50,000 children required treatment for acute malnutrition.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the co-hosts of the summit, also backed the calls for a ceasefire.

El-Sisi blamed the humanitarian crisis on Israel, saying it was "manufactured" and accusing Israel of using hunger as a weapon of war.

He also highlighted the necessity for Israel to remove all obstacles for the immediate, sustainable, and sufficient delivery of humanitarian and relief aid to Gaza through all borders.

Egypt, along with Qatar and the United States, has played a key role in seeking to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Egypt and Jordan were the first Arab countries to sign peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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