ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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UN chief appeals for Israel to ‘avert a humanitarian catastrophe’

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a news conference during the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a news conference during the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appeals for Israel to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” after the Israeli army ordered more than one million people to evacuate north Gaza.

“The Secretary-General and his team have been working the phones. He’s been in constant contact with Israeli authorities, urging them to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric tells reporters.

“I can only tell you what we’ve been told,” Dujarric says when asked about the timeframe. “It is clear to us that the clock is ticking.”

He calls for the order “to be rescinded, avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) announced the transfer of its operations to the south of Gaza, but he said some staff had asked to stay in the north.

“We are not pushing people to move. People have to make their own their own decisions,” he says.

There are “13,000 UNRWA staff members in Gaza, frontline workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, people offering psychosocial services. They are staying with the people they are tasked to support,” he says.

With growing calls to allow international aid into Gaza, he said the UN chief’s focus was on ensuring that support reaches Palestinian civilians.

“It’s been six days since anything has come in,” Dujarric says of Gaza.

“My UNRWA colleague I just got off the phone with just said they hadn’t been able to get a drop of water in there in six days. We’re literally at the bottom of the barrel.”

He says the UN was working with the Israelis and with Egypt to get aid in and create “areas of safety” for civilians.

“People should be able to be safe in their own in their own homes,” Dujarric says.

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