UN chief mourns 89 staff killed in Gaza

More United Nations aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of our organisation

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on Monday joined the UN family in mourning 89 staff from its agency that assisted Palestine refugees (UNRWA), who were killed in Gaza.

Guterres told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York that the Gaza crisis was more than humanitarian crisis: “The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis.  It is a crisis of humanity.”

According to him, many of these colleagues – who include teachers, school principals, doctors, engineers, guards and support staff – were killed along with their family members.

Among them was a young woman called Mai, who “did not let her muscular dystrophy or her wheelchair confine her dreams,” becoming a top student and eventually working in information technology for UNRWA.

Guterres appealed for international action now towards “a way out of this brutal, awful, agonising dead end of destruction,” including to help pave the way to peace and a two-State solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

The UN chief also underlined the need to support a 1.2 billion dollar humanitarian appeal to help nearly three million people across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

He also voiced ongoing grave concern over rising violence and an expansion of the conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, stating that “the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is at a boiling point.”

Guterres highlighted how “the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour,” stressing that the protection of civilians is paramount.

“Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day.

“More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades.

“More United Nations aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of our organisation,” he said.

However, he said the humanitarian appeal – launched by the UN and partners – would assist the entire population in the Gaza Strip and half a million Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Guterres said although some aid was getting into Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt, this “trickle of assistance does not meet the ocean of need.”

Over the past two weeks, 400 trucks have made the journey, compared with 500 a day prior to the conflict, and the aid deliveries have not included desperately needed fuel.

“Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die.

“Water cannot be pumped or purified. Raw sewage could soon start gushing onto the streets, further spreading disease. Trucks loaded with critical relief will be stranded,” he warned.

The secretary-general said the way forward wasclear, repeating his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for all parties to respect international humanitarian law.

He reiterated his appeals for the unconditional release of all Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, and for the protection of civilians, hospitals, UN facilities, shelters and schools.

“More food, more water, more medicine and of course fuel – entering Gaza safely, swiftly and at the scale needed.  Now.

“Unfettered access to deliver supplies to all people in need in Gaza.  Now. And the end of the use of civilians as human shields.  Now,” he said. (NAN)

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