Israel has brought ‘relentless death and destruction’ to Gaza: UN chief

Antonio Guterres says ‘nothing can justify the collective punishment’ in Gaza, and calls for more aid access to the enclave.

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has brought “relentless death and destruction” to Palestinians in the strip, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.

In a speech marking six months since Israel’s war on Gaza began, the UN chief said that “nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

“Lives are shattered. Respect for international humanitarian law is in tatters,” he added.

“During my visit to the Rafah crossing 10 days ago, I met veteran humanitarians who told me categorically that the crisis and suffering in Gaza is unlike any they have ever seen,” Guterres said, adding that long lines of trucks with aid continued to face “obstacle after obstacle”.

“When the gates to aid are closed, the doors to starvation are opened,” he said.

“More than half the population – over a million people – are facing catastrophic hunger. Children in Gaza today are dying for lack of food and water.

“This is incomprehensible, and entirely avoidable.”

Since Israel’s war on Gaza began on October 7, more than 33,000 people have been killed, according to health authorities. Hundreds of thousands have also been displaced and aid organisations warn that the strip is on the brink of famine.


Aid access

The UN secretary-general said he sincerely hoped Israel will quickly and effectively boost aid access to the Gaza Strip.

Israel has approved the reopening of the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing into northern Gaza and temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel after US President Joe Biden demanded steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying conditions could be placed on US support for Israel if it did not act.

Global outrage at the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million people escalated after an Israeli air attack on Monday killed seven people working for US-based food charity World Central Kitchen.

The UN says at least 196 humanitarian workers have now been killed in the war.

Guterres also said he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli military has been using artificial intelligence to help identify bombing targets in Gaza. The Israeli military has denied AI was used to identify suspected fighters and targets.

“No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms,” the UN chief said.

Guterres also called Hamas’s October 7 attack “a day of pain for Israel and the world”, said he mourned for those killed “in cold blood”, and called for the unconditional release of all the captives still held in Gaza.

Israel has said some 1,200 people were killed during the October 7 attack and more than 200 taken captive – dozens of whom have since been released.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies