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UN chief hopes Israel quickly, effectively boost Gaza aid access

April 5, 2024 at 4:11 pm

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, US on November 6, 2023 [Fatih Aktaş – Anadolu Agency]

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said on Friday that he sincerely hopes Israel quickly and effectively boosts aid access to the Gaza Strip, describing the situation in the Palestinian enclave after six months of war as “absolutely desperate”, Reuters reports.

Israel has approved the reopening of the Erez Crossing into northern Gaza and temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel after US President Joe Biden demanded steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying conditions could be placed on US support for Israel, if it did not act.

“When the gates to aid are closed, the doors to starvation are opened. More than half the population – over a million people – are facing catastrophic hunger. Children in Gaza today are dying for lack of food and water,” Guterres told reporters.

“This is incomprehensible, and entirely avoidable,” he said. “Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

Global outrage at the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million people escalated after an Israeli airstrike on Monday killed seven people working for US-based food charity, World Central Kitchen.

READ: Aid deliveries almost impossible in Gaza, rights groups warn

The UN says at least 196 humanitarian workers have now been killed in the six-month-long war as Israel retaliates against Hamas in Gaza over a deadly 7 October attack on Israel by the Palestinian group.

“The Israeli government has acknowledged mistakes,” Guterres said. “But the essential problem is not who made the mistakes, it is the military strategy and procedures in place that allow for those mistakes to multiply, time and time again.”

“Fixing those failures requires independent investigations and meaningful and measurable changes on the ground,” he said. “196 humanitarian workers have been killed and we want to know why each one of them was killed.”

Guterres also said he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli military has been using artificial intelligence to help identify bombing targets in Gaza. The Israeli military denies AI was used to identify suspected extremists and targets.

“No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms,” Guterres said.

Israel says some 1,200 people were killed by Hamas on 7 October and more than 250 people taken hostage. Gaza health authorities say more than 33,000 people have been killed since.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

“Over the last six months, the Israeli military campaign has brought relentless death and destruction to Palestinians in Gaza,” Guterres said. “Lives are shattered. Respect for international humanitarian law is in tatters.”

WATCH: Gaza’s children are being starved to death: MEMO in Conversation with Alexandra Saieh