A conference of international donors in Kuwait pledged over $2 billion in aid to Gaza Sunday as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate” ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The conference, organized by the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the funds would be dispersed over two years, with the possibility of an extension.

The initiative is designed “to mobilize efforts to support life-saving humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip, and to support the prospects for early recovery for the population,” IICO General Manager Bader Saud al-Sumait said.

It would be applied on five different tracks – “life-saving interventions, shelter, health, education and economic empowerment,” Sumait said as he read the conference’s final statement.

Guterres urged an immediate halt to the war, the return of hostages held in Gaza 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 in a video address.

“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 an international outcry over its military incursion into eastern areas of the city, effectively shutting a key aid crossing.

“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.

Meeting Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the UN chief accepted an honorary shield “on behalf of the UN, and especially on behalf of the almost 200 members of the UN that were killed in Gaza.”

On Friday in Nairobi, Guterres warned that Gaza faced an “epic humanitarian disaster” if Israel launched a full-scale ground operation in Rafah.

With AFP