United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a statement on Wednesday, expressing that the attacks carried out by the militant group Hamas against Israel do not justify the “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people. He called for an immediate ceasefire. Speaking at an economic forum in China, Guterres condemned the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 people, as “acts of terror” that could not be justified.
Guterres stressed that while these attacks by Hamas are unacceptable, they should not be a pretext for subjecting the Palestinian population to collective punishment. He made a passionate appeal for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. He reiterated what he referred to as “two urgent humanitarian appeals.”
Firstly, Guterres called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the hostages they had taken during their offensive. At least 199 people were kidnapped by the militants during their deadliest offensive in Israel’s history.
Secondly, he urged Israel to permit unrestricted access to humanitarian aid to address the basic needs of the people in Gaza, with the majority being women and children. Guterres emphasised the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, providing time and space to fulfil his two appeals and alleviate the tremendous human suffering in the region.
He acknowledged the deep grievances of the Palestinian people after 56 years of occupation but made it clear that these grievances could not justify the acts of terror committed by Hamas on October 7.
Guterres also expressed his horror over a devastating explosion that occurred in a hospital in Gaza, killing hundreds of people. While Hamas blamed Israel for the hospital strike, Israel claimed it was the result of a rocket misfire by Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza. Guterres stated that hospitals and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law and expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.
Additionally, the UN Secretary-General condemned an attack on a school operated by the UN in a Gaza refugee camp, which led to the deaths of six people.
These statements from Guterres come in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, a situation marked by violence, suffering, and international concerns over the welfare of civilians in the region.