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Amid ongoing strife in Gaza and Ukraine, UN chief reiterates peace call

“When we live in a chaotic world it’s very important to stick to principles and the principles are clear: the UN Charter, international law, the territorial integrity of countries and international humanitarian law,” the UN chief said, speaking at the opening of the European Council in Brussels. 

That is the reason why we believe it is essential to have peace for Ukraine…(and) that is the reason why for the same reasons we need a ceasefire in Gaza.”

In a brief press encounter, Mr. Guterres condemned the Hamas-led terror attacks of 7 October in which some 1,200 Israeli and foreign nationals were killed, before reiterating his alarm that “we are witnessing a number of civilian casualties in Gaza that is unprecedented in my time as Secretary-General”.

Tedros starvation alert

Echoing the UN chief’s comments, the head of the UN health agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Thursday highlighted the plight of “many” youngsters in northern Gaza lying seriously injured in hospitals or reportedly “starving”, after nearly six months of war. 

In a social media post accompanying Tedros’s appeal, a video clip from Al-Shifa Hospital showed a young amputee, Rafiq, who had been reportedly rescued from under the rubble of his home in Gaza City.

The video – filmed on 17 March, according to WHO – showed the boy’s doctor who maintained that nutritious food containing proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals was “unavailable in most of the northern Gaza Strip”.

The unnamed medic also noted that in addition to the malnourished young Gaza City patient he was treating, there were “many other children whose parents report that they have died due to malnutrition without any medical examination” at Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals.

WHO was last able to reach the medical facility on 11 March to deliver fuel and medicines, the UN agency said. According to media reports, the Israeli military raid of Al-Shifa that began on Monday is now into its fourth day.

“History will judge us all for what these children are enduring,” WHO Director-General Tedros wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Ceasefire! Allow immediate, unfettered, scaled-up humanitarian access.”

On Monday, a UN-backed food insecurity analysis warned that 1.1 million Gazans are now enduring catastrophic hunger and starvation, with famine possible in the north “anytime between now and May”.

Latest WHO data indicates 410 attacks on health care in Gaza since 7 October. The attacks reportedly caused hundreds of casualties, damaged nearly 100 facilities and affected more than 100 ambulances. 

In the West Bank, the UN health agency documented 403 attacks on health care since 7 October.

Nearly 31,200 people in Gaza have now been killed amid intense Israeli bombardment with more than 74,000 injured, UN aid coordination office OCHA said, citing the enclave’s health authorities. According to the Israeli military, 251 soldiers have been killed in the ground operation that began on 27 October.

US calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in new draft

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said on Thursday that the latest draft of a resolution penned by Washington on Gaza before the Security Council now includes the call for “an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages.”

It is unclear when the draft might be put to a vote but news reports suggest it could be as early as Friday. The US has previously blocked attempts to pass a ceasefire resolution. 

The top US diplomat was speaking in Egypt and is touring the Middle East as indirect negotiations on a possible deal continue between Israel and Hamas, brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatar. Mr. Blinken said an agreement was “very much possible”.

Weapon of war

Meanwhile, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), Philippe Lazzarini, reiterated calls to “flood” Gaza with humanitarian aid.

Condemning a “man-made famine” in the north, Mr. Lazzarini insisted that the “easy response” was to open “all the land crossings into Gaza”. “It is easy to flood Gaza with food, it is easy to reverse this trend and I also believe it is a collective stain on our collective humanity that such a situation is artificially unfolding under our eyes,” he said.

The UNRWA Commissioner-General also repeated widespread calls for Israel and Hamas to agree on a ceasefire and the release of all remaining hostages taking during Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel on 7 October. “This should be a priority but meanwhile food should not be used as a weapon of war,” Mr. Lazzarini said.


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