UN chief Guterres urges ceasefire as Gaza becomes ‘graveyard for children’

‘The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity,’ he said.

Graves are prepared at a cemetery in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6
Graves are prepared at a cemetery in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023 [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has strengthened his calls for a ceasefire as Palestinian authorities reported that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

The secretary-general told reporters on Monday that Gaza was becoming a “graveyard for children”, with more than 4,100 killed since the fighting began, according to the Ministry of Health in the enclave.

“Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed and injured every day,” he said.

“More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades,” he said. “More United Nations aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of our organisation.”

“The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour,” Guterres said to reporters at UN headquarters in New York City.

“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.”

The remarks are some of the sharpest yet from Guterres, who has previously called for a ceasefire and said on Monday that Israeli strikes have targeted “hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and UN facilities, including shelters”.

“No one is safe,” he said. Guterres also criticised the Palestinian armed group Hamas for using civilians as “shields” and continuing to “launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel”, as he called for the release of captives still held in Gaza.

Hamas launched an assault on southern Israel on October 7 that Israeli authorities said killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and included the killing of women and children.

That attack was widely condemned, but Israel’s campaign of relentless air strikes on the besieged strip of more than 2.3 million people has also drawn criticism.

Israel has also placed Gaza under a siege, cutting off access to necessities such as fuel, food and electricity, while its bombardment has displaced more than 1.5 million people with few options for seeking refuge.

Guterres said clear violations of international law were being committed in the fighting.

With fuel supplies strained by Israel’s siege, more than half of Gaza’s 35 hospitals have been forced to suspend operations while the number of people wounded in the strikes surpasses 25,000.

“The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis,” Guterres said. “It is a crisis of humanity.”

Guterres also spoke about the need to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza, saying current levels of assistance represent a “trickle” against an “ocean of need” and that the Rafah crossing with Egypt does not have the capacity to fill the gap “alone”.

While Guterres did not mention specifics, Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays said that he may be suggesting other crossings into Gaza currently sealed by Israel, such as Kerem Shalom, also known as Karam Abu Salem, should be opened for aid deliveries.

“It’s a hint, but it’s not one I’ve heard him make publicly before that Israel should open Kerem Shalom,” Bays said.

“I’m sure privately, they’ve been saying that to the Israelis all the way through this. Kerem Shalom is a much bigger [crossing]. It is where most of the trucks used to go in from Israel directly into Gaza, and it’s been completely closed since October 7,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies