UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict on Monday, as he alleged that the bombarded Gaza Strip was becoming a “graveyard for children.”
“The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters.
Israel’s envoy to the UN charged that Guterres must resign for not calling instead on Hamas to surrender, and Jerusalem’s foreign minister panned the UN chief for not denouncing the terror group as the root of the problem in the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Israel is striking Gaza to destroy Hamas, after the terror group carried out a massive onslaught in southern Israel last month, killing over 1,400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, many massacred amid vicious atrocities. In addition, over 240 people were abducted from Israel and taken captive to Gaza.
“The parties to the conflict — and, indeed, the international community — face an immediate and fundamental responsibility: to stop this inhuman collective suffering and dramatically expand humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Guterres said.
“The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity,” he said.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said in response that Guterres has “rotten morals” for not persistently calling on Hamas to surrender and demanding the release of the at least 240 hostages held in the Gaza Strip.
By failing to do so, Guterres “has lost his moral compass and must not stay even for another minute in his position,” Erdan posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“Any UN representative who makes the false moral comparison between a brutal terrorist organization that commits war crimes, and a law-abiding democracy, proves himself to have rotten morals and should immediately resign from his position,” Erdan said.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen reacted by posting about the plight of the hostages, which include dozens of children, some of them infants.
“Shame on you,” he wrote, addressing Guterres. “More than 30 minors — among them a 9-month-old baby as well as toddlers and children who witnessed their parents being murdered in cold blood — are being held against their will in the Gaza Strip.”
“Hamas is the problem in Gaza, not Israel’s actions to eliminate this terrorist organization,” Cohen wrote.
On October 7, some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst through the border with the Gaza Strip and rampaged murderously through southern Israeli regions, overrunning communities and slaughtering those they found. Men, women and children were butchered, entire families murdered, in some cases burned alive in their homes. Dozens of babies were mutilated, women raped, and victims tortured. Some 260 people were mown down by gunmen at an outdoor music festival. The attack came under a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israel. Hamas and other terror groups have continued to rain rockets on Israel, displacing over 200,000 people.
According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, 10,222 people have died, including more than 4,000 children, in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched its strikes in retaliation. The unverified figures do not differentiate between terrorists and civilians nor between those killed in Israeli strikes and those killed by the hundreds of terror group rockets that have fallen short inside the Strip. They categorize anyone under 18 as children, even underage terror operatives.
Israel says it is hitting terror infrastructure and striving to avoid civilian casualties. It accuses Hamas of using the civilian population as human shields.
Guterres also deplored the killings of media workers. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 36 journalists and media workers have been killed.
“More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades,” Guterres said.
Guterres was formally launching a recently announced $1.2 billion UN humanitarian appeal to help 2.7 million Palestinians over the entire Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Aid trucks have been coming into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing, but the amount remains well below the level before October 7, with Israel saying it needs time for security checks of vehicles, and they are not bringing fuel.
“Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die,” Guterres said.
Israel has imposed a blockade of fuel imports into the Strip, arguing that Hamas uses it to operate its weapons system and maintain its underground tunnels, and has limited the entry of other supplies. It says Hamas is hoarding fuel that could be used by the civilian population.
“The way forward is clear. A humanitarian ceasefire — now. All parties respecting all their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Guterres said.
He again voiced alarm about the “clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing.”
“Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law,” he said.
Guterres did not name Israel. He outraged Israel on October 24 at a Security Council meeting where he alleged violations of humanitarian law and said that the Hamas attacks “did not occur in a vacuum,” leading Israeli officials to accuse the UN chief of justifying violence.
Guterres denied that was his intention and on Monday repeated his condemnation of “the abhorrent acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas,” and urged the Islamist terrorists to free hostages taken on October 7.