Palestinians going through ‘one of the darkest chapters’ of their history: UN chief

Antonio Guterres

UNITED NATINS, Nov 29 (APP): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that Hamas’s October 7 operations “cannot justify” Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinian people” in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

In a statement issued for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the UN chief said that Palestinians were going through “one of the darkest chapters” of their history, adding, “We must be united in demanding an end to the occupation and the blockade of Gaza.”

“I am horrified by the death and destruction that have engulfed the region, which is overwhelmed with pain, anguish, and heartache,” he said.

The secretary-general reiterated his call for a “long-term” ceasefire and the release of captives held by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons.

“Palestinians in Gaza are suffering a humanitarian catastrophe,” Guterres said pointing out that almost 1.7 million people have been forced from their homes – but nowhere is safe. Meanwhile, he noted, the situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, risks boiling over.

“I express my sincere condolences to the thousands of families who are mourning loved ones. This includes members of our own United Nations family killed in Gaza, representing the largest loss of personnel in the history of our organization.”

Across the region, Guterres said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is an indispensable lifeline, delivering vital support to millions of Palestinian refugees.

“It is more important than ever that the international community stands with UNRWA as a source of support for the Palestinian people,” he said.

“Above all, this is a day for reaffirming international solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to live in peace and dignity.”

He called for “unrestricted access to lifesaving aid, the release of all hostages, the protection of civilians, and an end to violations of international humanitarian law.”

The temporary truce has given Palestinians in the besieged territory a brief respite from Israel’s 7-week brutal war.

Qatar, who mediated the deal, said Monday that the initial four-day truce had been extended by two days, continuing a pause in seven weeks of warfare that has killed thousands and laid waste to the besieged Palestinian enclave.

So far, under the truce deal, Hamas has released a total of 69 captives while Israel has freed 150 Palestinian detainees.

Guterres described an extended truce between Israel and the Hamas movement on Monday as “a glimpse of hope and humanity,” but warned it was not enough time to meet the aid needs of the Gaza Strip.

The United Nations has been delivering some humanitarian aid to Gaza via the Rafah border crossing from Egypt. The world body also wants to be able to use the Kerem Shalom border crossing, controlled by Israel.

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