Secretary-General António Guterres also reiterated his call for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” between Israeli forces and militants from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and other militant groups.
Consistent flow of aid essential
In a statement, Mr. Guterres said depriving Gaza’s people of basic supplies was only “compounding the human tragedy” of the conflict, calling for unimpeded humanitarian access “to be granted consistently, safely and to scale in order to meet the urgent needs created by the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.”
He said he was “deeply alarmed” by the intensifying violence, including the expansion of ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces accompanied by further intense air strikes, and the continued rocket fire towards Israel from Gaza.
“Civilians have borne the brunt of the current fighting from the outset. Protection of civilians on both sides is paramount and must be respected at all times”, he said.
The Hamas-run Ministry of Health reports that over 8,300 people have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, including 3,547 children, 2,136 women and 480 elderly persons.
670,000 internally displaced are sheltering in 150 UNRWA installations.
“The situation in shelters remains critical with very limited assistance available and no additional space”, said the agency, with healthcare dwindling and protection risks rising.
UNRWA deaths mount
Furthermore, UNRWA itself lost a further three staff members in the ongoing airstrikes during the past 24 hours – killed in their houses along with their families, according to agency.
This brings the death toll to 67. Last night, UNRWA chief Phillipe Lazzarini said one of those lost just hours before the Security Council met on the crisis in New York, was Samir, head of security and safety for the middle region of Gaza – killed along with his wife and eight children.
“I mourn and honour the United Nations colleagues who have tragically been killed in the bombardment of Gaza over the past three weeks”, said the Secretary-General. “My heart goes out to the families of our colleagues who lost their lives in service.”
UN News on Tuesday managed to get through to UNRWA Spokesperson in Gaza, Adnan Abu Hasan, who described in vivid detail the difficulty and danger being faced by colleagues attempting to keep limited aid flowing to those in desperate need.
Some of his own family members have been injured as airstrikes continue, driving home the reality that nowhere is safe for civilians aid workers there:
Unconditional release of hostages
The UN chief repeated his “utter condemnation of the acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas” on 7 October.
“There is never any justification for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians. I appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of those civilians held hostage by Hamas”, he said.
Mr. Guterres stressed again that international humanitarian law “establishes clear rules that cannot be ignored. It is not an a la carte menu and cannot be applied selectively.”
All parties must abide by the rules, “including the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution.”
Looking to the dangers of spillover across borders into Lebanon and Syria, the UN chief said he remained “deeply concerned about the risk of a dangerous escalation”, urging all leaders in the region to exercise utmost restraint.