United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged “rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access” to the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday, as Israel kept up its retaliation for Hamas’s deadly attacks.
“We need food, water, medicine and fuel now. We need it at scale and we need it to be sustained, it is not one small operation that is required,” Mr Guterres said in Cairo, as calls mounted for aid to reach the territory’s 2.4 million people.
“In plain terms, that means humanitarians need to be able to get aid in and they need to be able to distribute it safely.”
The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza — the only route in or out not controlled by Israel — was bombed four times by Israeli aircraft last week.
Egyptian state-linked media on Thursday said the crossing will open Friday, after US President Joe Biden struck a deal with Egypt and Israel to allow aid in.
Biden said “up to 20” of the hundreds of trucks waiting on the Egyptian side of the border will be let in as a start.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths estimated that about 100 trucks per day were needed to meet the needs in Gaza.
In a joint press conference with Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, Mr Guterres called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.
Shoukry said Cairo’s Summit for Peace on Saturday, which Mr Guterres is set to attend, will push for “de-escalation towards a ceasefire” as well as “ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
– International law –
Israel has been carrying out air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Hamas gunmen unleashed a massive attack on communities in southern Israel on October 7 that Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people, mainly civilians.
The health ministry in Gaza says the Israeli strikes have killed 3,785 people in the besieged Palestinian enclave, also mostly civilians.
Mr Guterres called on Hamas “for the immediate and unconditional release” of hostages taken in the, which Israel says number 203.
He also urged Israel to allow “immediate, unrestricted access of humanitarian aid” after its siege and bombardment campaign led to an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.
Mr Guterres said “the Palestinian people have legitimate and deep grievances” that nonetheless “cannot justify terror attacks”.
In turn, those “appalling” attacks “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”, he continued.
The UN has counted journalists, health workers, and UN staff among those killed in Gaza.
“International law must be respected,” Mr Guterres said, adding that “protection of civilians is a must”.
“Any attacks on a hospital, school, or UN premises are forbidden under international law.”
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