UN chief blames Israeli ‘obstacles, chokepoints’ for looming famine in Gaza Strip

In Egypt, Secretary General Antonio Guterres says only effective way to deliver humanitarian resources is by road, but ‘arteries are clogged’

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry give a joint press conference following their meeting at the New Administrative Capital east of Cairo on March 24, 2024. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry give a joint press conference following their meeting at the New Administrative Capital east of Cairo on March 24, 2024. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

CAIRO, Egypt — United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said Sunday in Cairo that delivering the necessary aid to famine-threatened Gaza “requires Israel removing the remaining obstacles and chokepoints to relief.”

Guterres repeated his call for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” to alleviate “the plight of Palestinian children, women and men struggling to survive the nightmare in Gaza,” during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Guterres, who also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, called the Rafah border crossing and Egypt’s El-Arish airport where assistance is sent “essential arteries for life-saving aid into Gaza.”

The only effective and efficient way to deliver heavy goods to meet Gaza’s humanitarian needs is by road and includes an exponential increase in commercial deliveries, he asserted.

“But those arteries are clogged,” Guterres said, with massive lines of trucks piled up on the Egyptian side, only trickling in as the humanitarian situation worsens. Calls have mounted for Israel to ease its restrictions on aid and open more crossings into Gaza.

“Palestinians in Gaza desperately need what has been promised — a flood of aid. Not trickles. Not drops,” Guterres said. “The daily assault on the human dignity of Palestinians is creating a crisis of credibility for the international community.”

Egyptian Red Crescent trucks loaded with aid queue outside the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Israel launched its war on Hamas following the group’s devastating October 7 attack, when thousands of terrorists killed close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 people of all ages to Gaza, where more than half remain. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more 32,000 have been killed in the ensuing war, an unverified figure which does not differentiate between combatants and civilians.

“Looking at Gaza, it almost appears that the four horsemen of war, famine, conquest, and death are galloping across it,” the UN chief said. “The whole world recognizes that it’s past time to silence the guns and ensure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” he continued.

“And in the Ramadan spirit of compassion, I also urge the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” Guterres said.

The UN has repeatedly warned of famine in the Palestinian territory, particularly in the north, which has been largely cut off from aid deliveries amid the combat.

Yet COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry body governing civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, on Saturday posted an image of what it said was aid that had “accumulated” on the other side of the border at Rafah and was waiting for distribution by the United Nations and its Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

“This is the equivalent of hundreds of aid trucks — which isn’t being distributed to Gazan civilians. We remain committed to the transfer of aid to Gaza,” it wrote on X.

Palestinians line up during the distribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza City on March 17, 2024. (AFP)

Israel, which has vowed to destroy Hamas and is worried that the Palestinian terror group will divert aid, has kept all but one of its land crossings into the enclave closed. It opened its Kerem Shalom crossing close to Rafah in late December and denies accusations by Egypt and UN aid agencies that it has delayed deliveries of humanitarian relief, saying that there is no limit to the amount of aid that can enter the Strip.

Israel blames the ailing humanitarian situation on aid agencies’ failure to distribute supplies, and on Hamas and armed groups who have looted trucks entering the Gaza.

Footage from Gaza has shown gunmen, believed to be members of the terror group, stealing trucks delivering humanitarian aid from Egypt. Israel has also long said that Hamas stockpiled supplies and kept them from increasingly desperate civilians.

Israel has also provided evidence for allegations that over a dozen employees of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, actively participated in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught and that many others have direct ties to terror groups.

Guterres visited on Saturday the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, where he declared a long line of aid trucks unable to enter the Palestinian territory “a moral outrage.”

In a furious response shortly after his comments, Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused the United Nations under Guterres’s leadership of becoming an “antisemitic and anti-Israeli body” that “emboldens” terror.

Guterres, Katz said, “stood today on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing and blamed Israel for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, without condemning in any way the Hamas-ISIS terrorists who plunder humanitarian aid, without condemning UNRWA that cooperates with terrorists — and without calling for the immediate, unconditional release of all Israeli hostages.”

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