Antonio Guterres describes Gaza as a ‘graveyard for children’ amidst the ongoing conflict.
In an urgent plea on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as the Palestinian death toll from Israeli airstrikes reached a harrowing figure of over 10,000. Guterres, in his somber address, highlighted the devastating impact on children, referring to the besieged enclave as a “graveyard for children”.
With more than 4,100 children reported killed, the Secretary-General’s comments underscore the dire situation in Gaza, where according to Palestinian health authorities, the relentless bombing has led to a severe humanitarian crisis. “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day,” Guterres said.
The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled enclave detailed the loss, stating that the airstrikes have resulted in the death of 10,022 individuals, including the grim tally of children.
Guterres criticized both sides of the conflict, condemning the militant group Hamas for using civilians as human shields and continuing indiscriminate rocket launches towards Israel. However, he also called out the Israeli strikes for targeting “civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches, and U.N. facilities – including shelters”.
“No one is safe,” Guterres told reporters, as he recounted the attacks on places of refuge and essential services. “At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel,” he said, emphasizing the need for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
The UN chief also lamented the killing of journalists and United Nations aid workers, stating that more had been killed in the past four weeks than in any comparable period in the history of the organization.
Meanwhile, the United States, aligning with Israel’s stance, is advocating for temporary pauses in the conflict to facilitate aid rather than a full ceasefire. President Joe Biden, in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reiterated his support for Israel while emphasizing the necessity to protect civilians.
In response to the rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel has intensified its military operations. “Now we are going to start closing in on them,” Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht of the Israel Defense Forces informed reporters. The IDF claims to be targeting Hamas militants entrenched within civilian areas, including underground tunnels.
The UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) reported the loss of five colleagues in the past 24 hours, with 89 personnel killed in total, highlighting the peril faced by humanitarian workers in the conflict zone.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is touring the region, aiming to quell the escalation of conflict and bolster aid delivery. During his visit, Blinken emphasized that assistance could significantly expand in the days ahead.
While the Rafah border crossing with Egypt has been a conduit for some aid and evacuations, Guterres remarked that current assistance represents a mere “trickle against an ocean of need”. He subtly suggested the opening of other crossings, like Kerem Shalom, which has been closed since the conflict’s escalation on October 7.