UN calls for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

The United Nations on Saturday ramped up appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza after another night of ground incursions and intense bombardment by Israeli forces left healthcare facilities without electricity and civilians across the ravaged enclave virtually “cut off from the outside world”.

Secretary-General António Guterres said: “I reiterate my strong appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, together with the unconditional release of hostages and the delivery of relief at a level corresponding to the dramatic needs of the people in Gaza, where a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes.”

The UN chief is on his way to Nepal for an official visit but is closely following the situation in the Middle East.

According to his spokesperson in NY, during a stopover in Doha, Qatar, Mr. Guterres spoke by phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and the two discussed the current situation in that region and the coordination of humanitarian efforts for civilians in Gaza. 

In Doha, Mr Guterres met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani for consultations on the Middle East crisis. 

The UN chief expressed deep gratitude, appreciation and support for the mediation initiatives of Qatar, namely for the release of the hostages kept in Gaza.

On the situation in Gaza, the Secretary-General said that he had been encouraged in the last days by what seemed to be a growing consensus in the international community, including the countries supporting Israel, for the need for at least a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

Such a pause would facilitate the release of hostages in Gaza, the evacuation of third-country nationals and the necessary massive scale-up of the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza. 

“Regrettably, instead of the pause, I was surprised by an unprecedented escalation of the bombardments and their devastating impacts, undermining the referred humanitarian objectives,” lamented the UN chief.

Moreover, he said that given the breakdown in communications, he was also extremely concerned about the UN staff who are in Gaza to deliver humanitarian assistance. 

“This situation must be reversed,” he said adding: “I want to repeat what I said yesterday. This is the moment of truth. Everyone must assume their responsibilities. History will judge us all.”

WHO appeals to the humanity in all those who have the power to do so to end the fighting now, in line with the UN resolution adopted yesterday, calling for a humanitarian truce, as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians held captive,” the agency concluded.

Friday afternoon the UN General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

The 193-member Assembly adopted the measure by a recorded vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions, taking action during an emergency session after the Security Council, the UN body tasked with maintaining international peace and security, has been unable to reach agreement on three separate resolutions in recent days. [One UN member country, citing technical difficulties, changed its vote after the vote was recorded, so the final tally was 121 in favour to 14 against, with 44 abstentions.]

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