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Gaza: ‘high time’ for ceasefire and hostage release, says Guterres

Speaking in Jordan at an international conference prompted by the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, Mr. Guterres insisted that after more than eight months of intense hostilities, “the horror must stop”.

“I welcome the peace initiative recently outlined by President Biden and urge all parties to seize this opportunity and come to an agreement,” the UN chief said. “And I call on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. This includes facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid both into and inside Gaza, as they have committed. All available routes into Gaza must be operational – and the land routes are absolutely crucial.”

On Monday, the United States-drafted text urged Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal announced on 31 May by President Joe Biden that has already been accepted by Israel, according to the White House.

The text urges both parties to fully implement the terms of the proposal “without delay and without condition”. It was adopted by a large majority with 14 votes in favour and Russia abstaining – choosing not to exercise its veto power.

Standing by UNRWA

Highlighting the key role played in the battered enclave by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA – which has been attacked and ostracized by Israeli leaders – the Secretary-General insisted that its presence “will remain critical not only during the conflict, but afterwards”.

Latest reports from Gaza show that around 60 per cent of all residential buildings and at least 80 per cent of commercial facilities have been damaged by Israeli bombardment, the UN chief said, with health facilities and educational institutions reduced to rubble. 

In addition, more than one million “deeply traumatized children in Gaza” need psychosocial support and the safety and hope their schools used to provide, Mr. Guterres said, before insisting that “only UNRWA has the capacity, skills, and networks needed to support the Palestinian people to face the immense challenge on health, on education and so much more.”

Aid access obstacles endure

Echoing deep and repeated warning from humanitarians about the scale of the severe emergency across Gaza linked to the lack of aid access, the UN chief noted that “at least half of all humanitarian aid missions are denied access, impeded, or cancelled due to operational or security reasons”. 

More to come…

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