UN chief urges global action against Israel’s military operation in Rafah


In a strong warning against a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on “those with influence over Israel” to prevent further civilian casualties and displacement.

“A military assault on Rafah would be an unbearable escalation, killing thousands more civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee,” Guterres said at a news conference.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, the UN chief stressed that a military assault would not only have a “devastating impact on Palestinians in Gaza” but also significant repercussions across the region.

The UN chief stressed the worsening situation in Gaza after Oct. 7 and said his consistent calls for “a humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and a massive surge in humanitarian aid” remain unheard.

“For the sake of the people of Gaza, for the sake of the hostages and their families in Israel, and for the sake of the region and the wider world, I strongly encourage the government of Israel and the Hamas leadership to reach an agreement,” he said.

Guterres expressed concern about the disturbing reports emerging from Gaza, where hospitals are now being likened to cemeteries amidst the discovery of mass graves.

“I am deeply alarmed by reports that mass graves have been discovered in several locations in Gaza, including Al Shifa Medical Complex and Nasser Medical Complex,” said Guterres.

Emphasizing the urgency of an independent international investigation into the mass graves, Guterres said, “It is imperative that independent international investigators, with forensic expertise, are allowed immediate access to the sites of these mass graves, to establish the precise circumstances under which hundreds of Palestinians lost their lives and were buried, or reburied.”

He noted that children and disabled individuals are dying from hunger and disease in northern Gaza and urged everyone to “do everything possible to avert an entirely preventable, human-made famine.”

Noting the importance of applying all kinds of pressure to prevent a horrific tragedy, Guterres said the greatest obstacle to aid to Gaza is the lack of safety for humanitarian workers.

He said humanitarian aid convoys, facilities, staff and beneficiaries should not be targeted.

Guterres expressed gratitude for aid from the air and sea but stressed that those methods do not replace access via land routes. He reiterated the call for Israeli authorities to allow safe, swift and unimpeded aid.

On the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Guterres noted that the agency does “irreplaceable and indispensable work” to support millions in Gaza, the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Following a report by the Independent Investigation Group on the neutrality of the UNRWA, he said an action plan has been developed to implement the recommendations. He reported that many countries that had suspended funding to UNRWA have resumed providing funds.

Adding that some member countries have started supporting UNRWA for the first time, Guterres noted that despite the generosity of private donors, there is still a funding gap.

“I call on member states, both traditional and new donors, to pledge funds generously to ensure the continuity of the agency’s operations,” he said, adding that the agency’s presence across the region is a “source of hope and stability.”

The UN chief also said it is “the moment to reaffirm our hope for and contributions to a two-state solution — the only sustainable path to peace and security for Israelis, Palestinians, and the wider region.”__The Nation