UN Chief Assails Israel for Blocking Gaza Aid Trucks

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres assailed Israel on Sunday, contending that “horror and starvation stalk the people of Gaza” and that only Israel can remove the obstacles to getting more aid into the Palestinian enclave.

“Let me be clear. Nothing justifies the abhorrent October 7 Hamas attacks and hostage-taking in Israel,” the U.N. chief said in a visit to Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials to push for a cease-fire in the six-month Israeli-Hamas war.

“But nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Later, Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the U.N.’s Palestinian relief agency, said Israeli authorities told the agency that they were immediately blocking new food convoys to northern Gaza.

“This is outrageous and makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man-made famine,” Lazzarini said. “These restrictions must be lifted.”

He said that by blocking the aid being transported by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, “the clock will tick faster towards famine and many more will die of hunger, dehydration and lack of shelter. This cannot happen. It would only stain our collective humanity.”

On a Saturday visit to Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt, Guterres said it was a “moral outrage” that aid is being blocked from being sent into Gaza.

“Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other,” Guterres said.

horror and starvation - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid slated for Gaza await clearance at the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) border crossing on March 14, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid slated for Gaza await clearance at the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) border crossing on March 14, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

He said the only effective and efficient way to deliver heavy goods into Gaza was by road and included an exponential increase in commercial deliveries. He said in Egypt, “The daily assault on the human dignity of Palestinians is creating a crisis of credibility for the international community.”

He offered his remarks as the U.N. Security Council heads to a Monday vote calling for a cease-fire in the war, with the U.S. supporting the resolution and representatives of all 10 elected members of the council also supporting it, according to U.N. diplomats.

The Security Council on Friday failed to call for a cease-fire in Gaza after Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution supporting a halt to the fighting. This was the seventh time the council failed to agree on a cease-fire resolution since the war started.

Heavy fighting raged in Gaza on Sunday as Israel vowed to push on with its ground war in the territory’s far south near Rafah despite U.S. objections and ongoing truce talks in Qatar.

But Israel has not launched a full-scale attack on the southern reaches of Gaza. Several of its war strategists, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, are headed to Washington for discussions this week as U.S. officials try to prevent further bloodshed in a region where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering in makeshift tents.

Washington has made it clear it will not support an Israeli attack on Rafah without a plan to protect civilians there, but Israel has not said where it would move the Palestinians.

The refugees mostly were pushed there on orders from Israeli forces who told them to leave their homes in northern Gaza as Israeli troops advanced there in the earlier stages of the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has contended that “we have no way to defeat Hamas without getting into Rafah and eliminating the battalions that are left there.”

The Israeli leader told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Friday meeting in Israel, “I hope to do that with the support of the United States, but if we need to, we will do it alone.”

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said another 84 people had been killed over the past day, raising the total death toll in the war to 32,226, a figure that includes Hamas fighters Israel has killed. The war started with the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of about 250 hostages, 100 or so of whom the militants still hold in Gaza.

Combat has flared for almost a week in and around Gaza’s biggest hospital complex, Shifa in Gaza City, which has been a refuge for patients and displaced people. It is also a facility where Israel says Hamas and Islamic Jihad group militants have been hiding out. Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

In Israel, relatives and supporters of the hostages demonstrated Saturday outside the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, demanding greater efforts to bring them home. Some scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and police.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.