U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urgently appealed for a humanitarian cease-fire for Gaza, which he said is becoming a “graveyard” for hundreds of Palestinian children each day, as the Security Council remained deadlocked on any action.
“The way forward is clear,” he told reporters at the United Nations. “A humanitarian cease-fire. Now.”
He said all parties must also respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, and that no party to an armed conflict is above it.
“This means the unconditional release of the hostages in Gaza – now,” he said of the 240 men, women and children Hamas abducted during their October 7 terror attack inside Israel.
“I will never relent in working for their immediate release,” he added.
Guterres said respecting international humanitarian law also means the protection of civilians – including not using civilians as human shields – hospitals, U.N. facilities, shelters and schools in Gaza and the scaling up of aid and fuel to the besieged territory.
“None of these appeals should be conditional on the other,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been emphatic that there will be no humanitarian pauses unless all the hostages are released.
Guterres said the “nightmare in Gaza” is not just a humanitarian crisis, but a “crisis of humanity” and said the parties to the conflict, as well as the international community, have a fundamental responsibility to stop the suffering.
On Monday, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said the Palestinian death toll in the territory had reached 10,000 since Israel began attacks sparked by the Hamas assault in southern Israel on October 7.
The secretary-general expressed concern for the hundreds of children dying and being injured in Gaza every day, for the dozens of journalists who have been killed, and for U.N. aid workers. UNRWA, the agency that assists the Palestinians, has lost 89 staff since October 7. Some with members of their families.
“We must act now to find a way out of this brutal, awful, agonizing dead end of destruction,” Guterres said.
Aid scale-up needed
Monday the U.N. launched an aid appeal for $1.2 billion to assist 2.7 million people – the entire population of Gaza, plus a half million Palestinians in the West Bank, where tensions and violence have been rising.
The U.N. has appealed for all aid to be scaled up – only 25 trucks passed through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt on Sunday. Less than 500 trucks carrying water, food and medical supplies have been allowed to enter Gaza since Israel started permitting limited aid through on October 21. Israel is still banning fuel, saying Hamas will divert it for its war machine.
On Sunday, King Abdallah of Jordan posted on the social media platform X that the Jordanian air force air-dropped medical supplies to the Jordanian field hospital in Gaza.
Asked if the United Nations is considering such a move to get more aid into the besieged territory, spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. is not, and prefers to expand road access for truck convoys.
“Air drops from the U.N. end are sort of a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted,” he said, adding that they are very costly and require a high level of logistics.
The U.N. Security Council held a closed-door meeting Monday but remained stalled on any action. It has failed four times to adopt a resolution demanding some version of a humanitarian cease-fire and is currently discussing a fifth compromise text.
“The gaps remain on what is achievable on the ground, where the political appetite is among some of the major players on this file, and the crisis on the ground as well,” UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh told reporters of the discussions.
One of those major players, the United States, says there is still no agreement.
“We’ve talked about humanitarian pauses, and we’re interested in pursuing language on that score, but there are disagreements within the Council about whether that’s acceptable,” U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said after the meeting.
Ambassador Nusseibeh said her government dispatched five aircraft with materials on Monday to Egypt’s Al-Areesh airport to launch an emergency field hospital in Gaza.
She said further details regarding this initiative would be forthcoming.