The UN chief’s call comes as drinking water and other vital resources dwindle in Gaza following the Israeli blockade.
The U.N. and other humanitarian agencies have worked around the clock to preposition aid since the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted following the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on several sites in Israel and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war.
Thousands of people were reported killed on both sides and hundreds of thousands more forced to flee as the situation in the Gaza Strip rapidly deteriorated after Israel warned of an imminent offensive.
“At this dramatic moment, when we stand on the brink of collapse in the Middle East, it is my duty as Secretary-General of the United Nations to make two strong humanitarian appeals,” Guterres said in a statement.
His call on Hamas is to immediately release the hostages without conditions. And Israel should grant rapid and unhindered access to humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza.
“Our selfless staff on the ground, along with NGO partners, must be able to deliver these supplies to and throughout Gaza safely,” Mr. Guterres said.
These goals must not become a bargaining chip and must be implemented, appealed to the UN Secretary-General, adding that it is “the right thing to do”.
“Gaza is strangled”
Similar calls were made on Sunday by UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.
Speaking to reporters in east Jerusalem, the head of the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees warned that his colleagues in Gaza were no longer able to provide humanitarian aid.
“UNRWA operations represent the largest footprint of the United Nations in the Gaza Strip, and we are on the brink of collapse,” he said, explaining that “not a drop of water, not a grain of wheat, not a liter of fuel” had been injected. allowed to enter the Gaza Strip over the past eight days.
And soon, he adds, there will be no more food or medicine. Thousands of people were killed, including children and women. Gaza is now even short of body bags, lamented the head of UNRWA.
“In fact, Gaza is being strangled and it seems that the world has lost its humanity,” he stressed.
At least a million people have been forced to flee their homes in a single week, and “a river of people continues to flow south.”
“Nothing less than collective punishment”
At least 400,000 displaced people are now in schools and UNRWA buildings, most of which are not equipped as emergency shelters. Most of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip are now displaced.
“We, UNRWA, have already lost 14 staff members. They were teachers, engineers, guards and psychologists, an engineer and a gynecologist,” explained Mr. Lazzarini.
To continue operations following the Israeli ultimatum, the UNRWA team in Gaza moved to Rafah, now working in the same building that houses thousands of desperate displaced people who are also rationing their food and water.
The sanitary conditions are appalling, continued Mr. Lazzarini. “Elderly people, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities are simply deprived of their basic human dignity, and it is a total shame! »
“The siege of Gaza, as it is imposed, is nothing less than collective punishment,” he stressed, demanding the immediate and safe passage of essential supplies such as fuel, water , food and medicine.
Tensions along the Blue Line
The conflict now threatens to spread across the entire region.
UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, said intense exchanges of fire in several areas along the Blue Line between Lebanese territory and Israel were observed on Sunday. There have been impacts on both sides of the unofficial border that separates the two countries.
“Our headquarters in Naqoura was hit by a rocket and we are working to verify from where,” the UNIFIL statement said. The operation’s peacekeepers were not in the shelters at the time, but none were injured.
Actively engaging with authorities on both sides of the Blue Line to de-escalate the situation, UNIFIL urges all parties involved to cease fire and allow peacekeepers to help find solutions.
“No one wants to see more people injured or killed,” the statement said, expressing regret that the military escalation continues.
WHO strengthens its response capacity
Heightened tensions on the border between Israel and southern Lebanon have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase its capacity to provide immediate access to life-saving medical care to civilians.
Two shipments arrived in Beirut today from the WHO logistics center in Dubai. They include enough medications and surgical and trauma supplies to meet the needs of 800 to 1,000 injured patients.
In a statement, the UN agency explained that Lebanon’s health system has been crippled due to the current economic crisis, the 2020 Beirut port explosion and the added burden of the Syrian refugee crisis.
The Lebanese Ministry of Health is in the process of identifying reference hospitals that will receive lifesaving supplies from WHO.