UN chief urges ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza, release of hostages

In address to donors’ conference, Guterres calls for ‘surge’ in aid to Strip, predicts ‘long road’ ahead to reverse destruction left by war

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gives a press conference on the sidelines of the 2024 United Nations Civil Society Conference at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi on May 10, 2024. (Tony KARUMBA / AFP)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gives a press conference on the sidelines of the 2024 United Nations Civil Society Conference at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi on May 10, 2024. (Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged an immediate halt to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the return of hostages, and a “surge” in humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.

“I repeat my call, the world’s call, for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid,” Guterres said in a video address to an international donors’ conference in Kuwait.

“But a ceasefire will only be the start. It will be a long road back from the devastation and trauma of this war,” he added.

Israeli strikes in Gaza continued on Sunday after the Israel Defense Forces expanded an evacuation order for Rafah despite international outcry over its military incursion into eastern areas of the city. The operation remains limited in scope amid negotiations via mediators to secure the release of hostages who were abducted from Israel during the Hamas October 7 assault. The Rafah Border Crossing, a key aid route, remains shuttered, with Egypt reportedly refusing to coordinate with Israel on the entry of supplies into Gaza through the facility due to Israel’s incursion into the city.

Israel says it has made plans to evacuate civilians from areas of combat, and insists that it must tackle Hamas’s remaining battalions in Rafah to fully defeat the group in the enclave. In the initial evacuation zone and other areas of Rafah, around 300,000 Palestinians have evacuated to a designated “humanitarian zone,” according to IDF assessments.

“The war in Gaza is causing horrific human suffering, devastating lives, tearing families apart, and rendering huge numbers of people homeless, hungry, and traumatized,” Guterres said.

Tent encampments housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 11, 2024. (AFP)

His remarks were played at the opening of the conference in Kuwait organized by the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) and the UN’s humanitarian coordination organization OCHA.

On Friday, in Nairobi, the UN head warned Gaza faced an “epic humanitarian disaster” if Israel launched a full-scale ground operation in Rafah.

The war in Gaza erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, when thousands of terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air, and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, amid many acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying the terror group’s military and governance capabilities. Health authorities in Gaza say over 34,000 have been killed in the war, though figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 15,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7, while 272 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

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