United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the Israel-Gaza war.
Speaking in Beijing just hours after the bombing of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, Guterres said that Hamas “attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.
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Speaking at a forum to mark 10 years of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the UN chief reiterated what he called “two urgent humanitarian appeals”.
He called on Hamas to “[immediately] and [unconditionally] release” those it is holding captive and Israel “to immediately allow unrestricted access of humanitarian aid” to Gaza. The humanitarian ceasefire was needed for both of these appeals to be met, Guterres added.
“Too many lives and the fate of the entire region hang in the balance,” he said.
Guterres’s speech came after he released a statement condemning the attack on a hospital in Gaza, in some of the strongest language he has yet used to describe the violence over the past week.
Palestinian health authorities say at least 500 people were killed in the attack, which has been widely condemned by world leaders and human rights groups. Israel has denied responsibility.
Representatives from more than 130 mostly developing countries are attending the forum in China, including at least 20 heads of state and government.
Speaking on the theme of the conference, China’s growing programme of providing finance and loans to developing countries to build infrastructure, Guterres acknowledged that many developing countries were “drowning in debt” and called for “effective debt relief mechanisms”.
China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also addressed the opening ceremony of the forum in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.