Monday, December 4, 2023

Situation in Gaza has reached a dangerous new low: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that the situation in the Gaza Strip has reached a dangerous new low after Israel warned 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza to flee south following days of near-constant air raids on the embattled territory.

“The horrific terror attacks by Hamas on Israel that killed more than 1,300 people and injured thousands more last Saturday were followed by intense bombardment of Gaza that has already killed 1,900 people, and injured thousands more,” said Guterres to reporters ahead of a closed-door meeting with the Security Council on the Middle East and other matters Friday afternoon.

“After days of airstrikes, the Israeli Defense Forces have ordered the Palestinians in Gaza City and its surroundings to move to the south of the territory. Moving more than 1 million people across a densely populated warzone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory is under siege, is extremely dangerous – and in some cases, simply not possible,” he added.

“Hospitals in the south of Gaza are already at capacity and will not be able to accept thousands of new patients from the north. The health system is on the brink of collapse. Morgues are overflowing; eleven healthcare staff have been killed while on duty; and there have been 34 attacks on health facilities in the past few days.”

The Secretary-General called for “immediate humanitarian access throughout Gaza, so that we can get fuel, food and water to everyone in need.”

“Even wars have rules,” Guterres said, adding, “International humanitarian law and human rights law must be respected and upheld; civilians must be protected and never used as shields.”

He also called for the immediate release of all hostages held in Gaza.

Later, a spokesperson for the UN chief said Guterres has urged Israeli authorities to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe”, after Israel’s military warned 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes.

“Since last night the secretary general and his team have been working the phones. He’s been in constant contact with Israeli authorities urging them to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” satated Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the secretary general, in a briefing at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday.

“He’s also had phone contacts with permanent representatives here in New York and other officials in the region,” Dujarric added.

Dujarric reiterated an earlier statement from the UN that the evacuation is “impossible” and has urged the Israeli military to withdraw.

“We consider it is impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences and we strongly appeal for any such order to be rescinded, avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,” Dujarric said.

Dujarric also called for the safety of civilians, humanitarian assistance for them and protection of UN facilities, saying they “must never come under attack in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

He added, “We must ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages being held in Gaza and we need of course to avoid a spillover of this conflict to the West Bank and to the wider region.”

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