Ceasefire in Gaza, urges UN chief, on first day of Ramadan

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“Even though Ramadan has begun, the killing, bombing and bloodshed continue in Gaza…My strongest appeal today is to honour the spirit of Ramadan by silencing the guns and removing all obstacles to ensure the delivery of lifesaving aid at the speed and massive scale required.” 

All remaining hostages taken during Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel on 7 October must be released immediately too, the UN chief said, noting that the “catastrophic Israeli onslaught in Gaza” is now in its sixth month.

Reiterating his call to the warring parties to halt the war, Mr. Guterres highlighted the same compelling appeal from the families of victims who visited the UN in New York recently.

“As one of those family members said, ‘We are not here for condolences. We are not here for apologies. We are here for immediate action.’” 

Northern Gaza anxiety

It has been nearly six weeks since the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) managed to deliver aid to northern Gaza. “People are very, very anxious,” said spokesperson Juliette Touma on X, formerly Twitter.

“There should be more humanitarian assistance coming in via road including through UNRWA because we have the largest footprint on the ground and we know how to do this.”

Maritime corridor

In a related development, a non-governmental organization (NGO) ship laden with desperately-needed aid for northern Gaza waited to set sail from Cyprus on Monday to provide further relief to the many hundreds of thousands of people facing extreme hunger.

UN-partnered efforts to open a safe maritime corridor to Gaza were announced on Friday by the European Commission, United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom and others in close coordination with the UN’s Senior Humanitarian Coordinator for the enclave, Sigrid Kaag.

Safe harbour

Carrying around 200 tonnes of food, the international NGO vessel Open Arms remained anchored at Larnaca in southeast Cyprus, some 200 nautical miles from Gaza, reportedly awaiting permission to dock from the Israeli authorities.

In a related development, the Cypriot Government acknowledged US President Joe Biden’s announcement last Thursday that Washington would build a temporary pier off Gaza’s coastline to help deliver aid. Media reports indicated that it would take at least two months to complete. 

Needs are critical across the enclave, but remain particularly dire in the north, where UN humanitarians have warned repeatedly that some 300,000 Gazans have been almost cut off from humanitarian relief amid insecurity linked to a breakdown in civil order and multiple access refusals by Israeli authorities.

Northern hospitals lifeline

Echoing the UN chief’s ceasefire call, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said that it had reached two hospitals in northern Gaza at the weekend with supplies, including trauma items for 150 patients and 13,000 litres of fuel to Al-Ahil Arab Hospital and 12,000 litres of fuel to Al-Sahaba Hospital.

But, medical teams there lack a long list of basics to do their work, including “food, fuel, specialised staff, anaesthetic drugs, antibiotics and internal fixation devices”, said WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Sunday. 

“We need sustained, safe access to health facilities in order to supply them with urgently needed lifesaving healthcare on a regular basis,” he insisted, ending his message with: “ceasefire”.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), malnutrition among youngsters is extreme, with at least 18 children dead from hunger and dehydration in the north of the Strip to date. Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) warned that pregnant and breastfeeding women were also seeing spiralling levels of malnutrition in the enclave.

 



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