UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an immediate halt to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the return of hostages and a “surge” in humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.

“I repeat my call, the world’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid,” Guterres said on Sunday in a video address to an international donors’ conference in Kuwait.

“But a ceasefire will only be the start. It will be a long road back from the devastation and trauma of this war,” he added.

Israeli strikes on Gaza continued on Sunday after it expanded an evacuation order for Rafah despite international outcry over its military incursion into eastern areas of the city, effectively shutting a key aid crossing. The Israeli military also expanded an evacuation order for eastern Rafah and said 300,000 Palestinians had left the area.

All eyes have been on Rafah in recent weeks, where the population had swelled to around 1.5 million after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled fighting in other areas of the Gaza Strip.

“The war in Gaza is causing horrific human suffering, devastating lives, tearing families apart and rendering huge numbers of people homeless, hungry, and traumatized,” Guterres said.

His remarks were played at the opening of the conference in Kuwait organized by the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) and the UN’s humanitarian coordination organization OCHA.

“Catastrophic impact”

These remarks were followed by OCHA’s chief comments, who said that “a full-scale Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah “cannot take place”, and that it could not be reconciled with international law.

“The latest evacuation orders affect close to a million people in Rafah. So where should they go now? There is no safe place in Gaza!” Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

“These exhausted, famished people, many of whom have been displaced many times already, have no good options.

He said a full-scale offensive could have a “catastrophic impact… including the possibility of further atrocity crimes.”

“I can see no way that the latest evacuation orders, much less a full assault, in an area with an extremely dense presence of civilians, can be reconciled with the binding requirements of international humanitarian law and with the two sets of binding provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice.”

Volker said he was deeply distressed by fast-deteriorating conditions in Gaza, saying the latest evacuation orders had triggered “massive displacement of an already profoundly traumatised population”.


With AFP