Antonio Guterres pleads for civilians to be protected in Israel-Hamas war, says the fighting increases risk of a wider regional conflagration.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has renewed his demand for a ceasefire in Gaza and said that international law was being violated in the war between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas.
Israel has bombarded the besieged Gaza Strip relentlessly since October 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killling at least 1,400 people according to Israeli authorities.
list of 3 items
end of list
After the attack, Israel cut off supplies of water, food, fuel and electricity to the enclave’s 2.3 million residents, an act the UN has called a form of collective punishment. It also launched an assault on the territory, killing at least 5,791 people, according to authorities in Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.
More than one million people have been displaced, as Israel ordered residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to the south, but Israeli air raids have continued throughout the territory.
Speaking before the 15-member UN Security Council on Tuesday, Guterres pleaded for civilians to be protected and warned that the fighting risked a wider conflagration in the region.
“It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres said.
“But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Guterres also criticised Israel without naming it, saying “protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than one million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.”
The secretary-general’s comments drew ire from Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who called the speech “shocking”.
“His statement that ‘the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum’ expressed an understanding for terrorism and murder,” Erdan posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It’s truly sad that the head of an organisation that arose after the Holocaust holds such horrible views.”
In his speech, Guterres called the attack by Hamas “horrifying and unprecedented” and demanded the release of the roughly 200 people captured and held captive by Hamas.
Plea for emergency aid
Earlier, United Nations agencies called “on our knees” for emergency aid to be allowed unimpeded into Gaza, saying more than 20 times current deliveries were needed.
A small trickle of humanitarian aid has entered Gaza since Saturday from the Egyptian side, but Guterres called such limited assistance “a drop of aid in an ocean of need”.