Gaza Situation ‘growing More Desperate By The Hour’, UN Chief Says

UNITED NATIONS, (APP – UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 29th Oct, 2023) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is in Nepal on an official visit, Sunday made another fervent appeal for the protection of all civilians in Gaza, where, he said, “the situation is growing more desperate by the hour.”

The UN chief’s visit comes as the crisis in the Gaza Strip enters its third week following the 7 October action by Hamas freedom fighters against Israeli border towns and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war. Ten Nepalese students were also killed in the attacks.

Late last week the UN adopted a Jordanian-led resolution, co-sponsored by Pakistan, calling for a “humanitarian truce,” but the past few days have seen escalation in Israel‘s deadly bombing and reports of ground operations inside Gaza by Israel.

“I know that even though the conflict in the middle East is thousands of miles away, it has hit very close to home for the people of Nepal,” said the UN chief at a press conference on Sunday alongside Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

The secretary-general extended his condolences to the families of Nepalese victims, saying, “There is no justification, ever, for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians.”

He also expressed best wishes for the safe return of Bipin Joshi, a Nepalese citizen who is missing, and vowed that he would continue to insist on the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages in Gaza.

At the same time, Guterres noted the extremely dire situation in Gaza and expressed regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations.

“The number of civilians who have been killed and injured is totally unacceptable. All parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law … which emerged from the tragedy and awful experiences of war,” he continued.

Emphasizing his consistent calls for strict compliance with international humanitarian law, the Secretary-General stated: “The Laws of War establish clear rules to protect human life and respect humanitarian concerns. Those laws cannot be contorted for the sake of expedience.”

Guterres said that in Gaza more than two million people with nowhere safe to go, are being denied the essentials for life – food, water, shelter and medical care – while being subjected to relentless bombardment.

“I urge all those with responsibility to step back from the brink,” he said calling the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Secretary-General reiterated his appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the delivery of sustained humanitarian relief at a scale that meets the needs of the people of Gaza.

“We must join forces to end this nightmare for the people of Gaza, Israel and all those affected around the world, including here in Nepal,” he said.

The Secretary-General praised the long Nepalese tradition of championing peace and multilateralism and called on the world to “be a better friend to Nepal”, which is caught in a raft of crises not of its own making, including the threat posed by climate chaos.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that a “total communication and electrical blackout” follows a night of continuing hostilities and ground incursions in Gaza.

The UN health agency says that it has lost contact with its staff in the enclave but is still trying to gather information on the overall impact on civilians and health care.

“WHO reminds all parties to the conflict to take all precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. This includes health workers, patients, health facilities and ambulances, and civilians who are sheltering in these facilities,” the agency said in a press release.

Active measures must be taken, the agency continued, to ensure civilians and health workers are not harmed and safe passage is provided for the movement of desperately needed medical supplies, fuel, water and food into and across Gaza.

The ongoing violence has left thousands dead on both sides and while the UN and other humanitarian agencies have been able to move a trickle of aid, goods and health supplies into the ravaged enclave through the Rafah crossing in Egypt, much more is needed to meet the skyrocketing needs.

WHO said that reports of bombardment near the Indonesia and Al Shifa hospitals are gravely concerning, and the agency reiterated that it is impossible to evacuate patients without endangering their lives.

“Hospitals across Gaza are already operating at maximum capacity due to the injuries sustained in weeks of unrelenting bombardment and are unable to absorb a dramatic rise in the number of patients while sheltering thousands of civilians,” according to WHO.

Moreover, health workers who have stayed by their patients’ sides face dwindling supplies, with no place to put new patients, and no means to alleviate their patients’ pain.

“There are more wounded every hour. But ambulances cannot reach them in the communications blackout. Morgues are full. More than half of the dead are women and children,” said WHO.

“WHO appeals to the humanity in all those who have the power to do so to end the fighting now, in line with the UN resolution adopted yesterday, calling for a humanitarian truce, as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians held captive,” the agency concluded.

On Friday, the 193-member Assembly adopted the “humanitarian truce” resolution by a recorded vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions, taking action during an emergency session after the Security Council, the UN body tasked with maintaining international peace and security, has been unable to reach agreement on three separate resolutions in recent days.

(Iraq, citing technical difficulties, changed its vote after the vote was recorded, so the final tally was 121 in favour to 14 against, with 44 abstentions.)

In a separate statement on Saturday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last night’s bombardment and ground operations in Gaza by Israeli forces were reportedly the most intensive yet, “taking this terrible crisis to a new level of violence and pain.”

Compounding the misery and suffering of civilians, Israeli strikes on telecommunications installations and subsequent internet shutdown have effectively left Gazans with no way of knowing what is happening across Gaza and cut them off from the outside world,” said Volker Turk.

While reminding all parties of their obligations under humanitarian and human rights law, the High Commissioner said that the bombing of the telecommunications infrastructure places the civilian population in grave danger.

Ambulances and civil defence teams are no longer able to locate the injured, or the thousands of people estimated to be still under the rubble. Civilians are no longer able to receive updated information on where they can access humanitarian relief and where they may be in less danger.

Moreover, many journalists can now no longer report on the situation, he added.

“We lost contact with our colleagues in Gaza last night. Our colleagues had already endured days and nights under the incessant bombardment of Gaza…There is no safe place in Gaza and there is no way out. I am very worried for my colleagues, as I am for all civilians in Gaza,” lamented Turk.

He went on to say that the humanitarian and human rights consequences will be devastating and long-lasting. Thousands have already died, many of them children.

“Given the manner in which military operations have been conducted until now, in the context of the 56-year-old occupation, I am raising alarm about the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza and the potential for thousands more civilians to die,” he stated.

“Continued violence is not the answer. I call on all parties as well as third States, in particular those with influence over the parties to the conflict, to do all in their power to de-escalate this conflict, and to work toward the goal where Israelis and Palestinians can fully enjoy all human rights and live side by side, in peace.”
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