UN chief says Israel-Gaza fighting ‘must stop immediately’

Continued crossfire between Israeli forces and Hamas is “unacceptable,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells the UN General Assembly on Thursday, saying “the fighting must stop immediately.”

“I am deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza,” Guterres says.

“If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza,” says Guterres.

He adds that “indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas and other militant groups” towards population centers in Israel — which have left 12 dead, including two children — was also “unacceptable.” Thousands of rockets have been fired at Israeli cities and towns from Gaza in the past 11 days.

The General Assembly meeting was requested by Niger and Algeria, respectively the current chairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab Group at the United Nations.

Palestinians inspect a site hit during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on May 20, 2021 following rocket fire from the Strip toward Israel (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

“It is imperative that we achieve de-escalation, to prevent an uncontainable cross-border security and humanitarian crisis,” Guterres says, calling for the “resumption of negotiations” pursuing “a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines.”

On Wednesday, the 10th day of deadly violence between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, a spokesperson for the Secretary-General said Guterres had had contact with Palestinians and officials in the Middle East, but not yet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Denouncing airstrike damage to “several hospitals,” the UN chief also calls the levelling of media offices as well as the killing of a journalist in Gaza “extremely concerning.” Israel says Hamas was operating inside the media tower that it destroyed.

“I am deeply distressed by damage to United Nations facilities in Gaza,” he says. “United Nations premises are inviolable, including during armed conflict. Humanitarian installations must be respected and protected.”

He says an appeal for humanitarian aid donations would launch “as soon as possible,” specifying that the UN would release $14 million from the Humanitarian Fund for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“There is no justification, including counterterrorism or self-defense, for the abdication by the parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Guterres says.

“I am also deeply concerned by the continuation of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where several Palestinian families are under the threat of eviction.”

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