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25 Mar, 2024 10:06

UN chief suggests ‘flooding’ Gaza with aid

Antonio Guterres says keeping thousands of aid trucks away from the Palestinian city of Rafah is a moral outrage
UN chief suggests ‘flooding’ Gaza with aid

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, while urging countries to “truly flood Gaza with lifesaving aid.”

The UN chief paid a visit on Saturday to the Egyptian side of the border, not far from Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, which is now overcrowded with refugees. Israel is planning to launch a ground assault on the area despite warnings of a potential catastrophe, as more than half of Gaza’s population has fled to the city due to fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“Any further onslaught will make things even worse – worse for Palestinian civilians, worse for hostages, and worse for all people in the region,” Guterres said, describing starvation inside the enclave as a “moral outrage.”

His comments came a day after the UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a US-sponsored draft resolution seeking “an immediate and sustained ceasefire.” Western medics earlier warned the UN that the Israeli offensive in Rafah could lead to 250,000 deaths.

“Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness… a long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other,” he said, while standing next to a line of 7,000 waiting trucks, loaded with humanitarian aid.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed international pressure to cancel the Rafah offensive, insisting that it must go ahead to prevent Hamas from again attacking his country.

Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7, after the militants carried out a cross-border raid, killing more than 1,100 people and taking at least 250 hostages. Dozens of captives were subsequently freed through a series of swaps, during a weeklong truce in November. Around 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombing of Gaza and ground operation since October 7, according to the enclave’s health service.

According to the latest media reports, Israel has agreed to release up to 800 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 40 hostages still held by Hamas.

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