News

Gaza becoming 'graveyard for children', says UN chief

Calls for an immediate ceasefire: Death toll rises to 10,222 including over 4,000 children: UN Security Council again fails to call ‘humanitarian pause’ in fighting

By AFP

November 7, 2023 08:55 AM


Gaza becoming 'graveyard for children', says UN chief

People search rubble for survivors and the bodies of victims in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.–AFP

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday warned that the bombarded Gaza Strip was becoming a "graveyard for children," as he urged an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour," he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York. "The parties to the conflict -- and, indeed, the international community -- face an immediate and fundamental responsibility: to stop this inhuman collective suffering and dramatically expand humanitarian aid to Gaza," he said.

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"The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity."

Hamas fighters stormed into Israel from Gaza on October 7, killing some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, including through targeting homes and revelers at a music festival.

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Israel's retaliatory strikes have killed 10,222 people, including more than 4,000 children, in the densely populated and besieged Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Guterres also deplored the killings of media workers. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 36 journalists and media workers have been killed.

"More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades," Guterres said, adding that 89 UN aid workers have also been killed.

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Guterres was formally launching a recently announced $1.2 billion UN humanitarian appeal to help 2.7 million Palestinians over the entire Gaza Strip and parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Aid trucks have been coming into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, but the level remains well below that of before October 7, with Israel saying it needs time for security checks of vehicles. One restriction is that they are not bringing fuel.

"Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die," Guterres said. "The way forward is clear. A humanitarian ceasefire -- now. All parties respecting all their obligations under international humanitarian law," he said.

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Guterres again voiced alarm about the "clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing."

"Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law," he said.

Guterres did not name Israel Monday. He outraged the country's leaders on October 24 at a Security Council meeting where he alleged violations of humanitarian law and said that the Hamas attacks "did not occur in a vacuum," leading Israeli officials to accuse the UN chief of justifying violence.

Guterres denied that was his intention and on Monday repeated his condemnation of "the abhorrent acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas," and urged the Islamist militants to free hostages.

- Security Council stalemate -

The UN Security Council, which has yet to pass any text on the conflict, met again Monday afternoon without a resolution.

According to diplomatic sources, there is no consensus on whether to call any interruption in fighting a "ceasefire" or "humanitarian pause."

"We talked about humanitarian pauses and we're interested in pursuing language on that score," US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said after the meeting. "But there are disagreements within the Council about whether that's acceptable."

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And though all 15 members of the body recognize the "urgent humanitarian need" in Gaza, according to UAE Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, "the gaps remain on what is achievable on the ground."

"Without a cessation of hostilities, or some kind of humanitarian truce that is immediately implemented... far too many more will continue to lose their lives," she said, adding that the Security Council "feels enormous pressure to reach agreement."

- Over 10,000 killed in Gaza -

The Hamas-run health ministry said on Monday the death toll in Gaza had reached 10,022 people, after a night of heavy bombardment in the coastal territory.

The figure includes more than 4,000 children who have been killed, according to the ministry.

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The United States acknowledged there have been "thousands" of civilian casualties in Gaza, after President Joe Biden had previously called the validity of numbers published by Hamas authorities into question.

"As it relates to civilian casualties in Gaza... we know the numbers are in the thousands," Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told journalists.

- Egypt evacuations resume -

The Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt reopened on Monday to allow the evacuation of foreigners, dual nationals and wounded Palestinians, the Hamas government said.

The terminal was opened for three days last week before closing over the weekend amid a dispute over the passage of ambulances.

Six ambulances arrived at the Egyptian side of the crossing on Monday carrying wounded Palestinians to be transported to hospitals, followed by the week's first group of dual nationals, an Egyptian border official told AFP.

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The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had accompanied some of the ambulances, and the head of its Gaza office, William Schomburg, described "an immense relief to know that these patients are safe and will receive urgent medical care".

- Biden, Netanyahu discuss 'pauses' -

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed on Monday the potential for "tactical pauses" in the war to allow civilians to flee and enable humanitarian assistance and potential hostage releases, the White House said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier on Monday had urged an immediate ceasefire and warned Gaza was becoming a "graveyard for children".

"The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour," he told reporters at the UN headquarters.

"The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity."

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- West Bank violence -

A sixth Palestinian was killed in the occupied West Bank on Monday. The 18 year old was shot by Israeli soldiers in Beit Fajar, in the southern West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry reported.

Earlier, the Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man in the town of Halhul and four in Tulkarem, both in the occupied West Bank.

Separately, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli border policewoman in annexed east Jerusalem who later died of her wounds on Monday, police said, adding that the assailant was shot dead after the attack.

- Regional tensions -

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels claimed Monday they had launched a fresh drone attack against Israel on Monday, escalating a campaign of disruptive strikes.

Israeli authorities did not immediately confirm the attack.

Earlier on Monday, Hamas militants in Lebanon said they had fired 16 rockets towards Israel, targeting areas south of the coastal city of Haifa.

Israel's army reported about 30 projectiles had been fired from Lebanon and said it had fired back in the direction of the launches.

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Israel to take 'overall security responsibility' of Gaza after war

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his country will take "overall responsibility" of Gaza's security for an indefinite period after its war with Hamas ends.

"Israel will, for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility," he said in a television interview with ABC News broadcast on Monday.

"When we don't have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn't imagine," he added.

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In Monday's interview, Netanyahu disputed the health ministry's figures, which he said likely included "several thousand" Palestinian combatants.

Despite growing calls for a ceasefire from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other world leaders, Netanyahu said he did not support one.

"There will be no ceasefire -- general ceasefire -- in Gaza without the release of our hostages," he said.

"As far as tactical, little pauses -- an hour here, an hour there -- we've had them before," he said.

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Israel may agree to pauses to let humanitarian goods into Gaza, or to allow for hostages to leave the besieged Palestinian territory, he added.

Asked if he should take any responsibility for the October 7 attack, Netanyahu said "of course".

"It's not a question and it's got to be resolved after the war," he said, adding that his government had "clearly" not met its obligation to protect its people.

 


AFP


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