U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres delivers a speech on February 22, 2023.

(Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

UN Chief Demands 'Immediate Humanitarian Cease-Fire' to Allow Aid Into Gaza

"Too many lives—and the fate of the entire region—hang in the balance," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

The head of the United Nations on Wednesday called for an "immediate humanitarian cease-fire" in Israel and Gaza following a deadly strike on the Palestinian territory's al-Ahli Hospital, where many displaced Palestinians had taken refuge amid relentless Israeli bombing.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said a cease-fire would "provide sufficient time and space" for humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip and hostages to be freed.

"I am fully aware of the deep grievances of the Palestinian people after 56 years of occupation. But, as serious as these grievances are, they cannot justify the acts of terror against civilians committed by Hamas on October 7 that I immediately condemned," said Guterres. "But those attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."

"Too many lives—and the fate of the entire region—hang in the balance," Guterres added.

Guterres' remarks came as U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Israel and pledged to continue backing the country as it ramps up its devastating assault on Gaza. Biden is reportedly preparing to ask Congress to approve a $100 billion military aid package for Israel and Ukraine.

"I wanted to be here today for a simple reason," Biden said during an appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. "I want the people of Israel and the people of the world to know where the United States stands."

The U.S. president also publicly endorsed Israel's claim that a misfired Palestinian rocket—not an Israeli airstrike—was responsible for the carnage at Gaza's al-Ahli Hospital.

"I am deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday," Biden said. "And based on what I've seen, it appears it was done by the other team, and not you."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the hospital "was one of 20 in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military."

"The order for evacuation has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced," the WHO said. "WHO calls for the immediate active protection of civilians and health care. Evacuation orders must be reversed. International humanitarian law must be abided by, which means healthcare must be actively protected and never targeted."

Following the hospital strike, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas backed out of a planned meeting with Biden and other leaders in Jordan, prompting King Abdullah II of Jordan to cancel the gathering.

"Basic humanity needs to be restored in Gaza. The indiscriminate bombing must stop."

Biden arrived in Israel a day after the U.S., France, Japan, and the United Kingdom voted down a Russia-authored U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, where more than 3,300 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in just 11 days.

The Security Council is set to vote Wednesday on a separate resolution—sponsored by Brazil—that demands "humanitarian pauses" to allow aid to enter Gaza, which has been deprived of water, food, fuel, electricity, and critical medical supplies due to a total Israeli blockade.

Israel has thus far refused to halt its bombing campaign or lift its siege, leaving aid stuck at the Egyptian border as Gaza's healthcare system—overwhelmed by airstrike victims—verges on collapse. Biden has refused to call for a cease-fire, despite escalating domestic protests led by Jewish Americans.

"The bombing right now in Gaza is relentless," Dr. Christos Christou, international president of Doctors Without Borders, wrote Tuesday. "People have been killed while forced to move, looking for safety. People are trapped, unable to escape, with absolutely nowhere safe to go. They're deprived of essential needs—water, food, protected shelter, medicines."

"This is unimaginable. This is inhumane," Christou added. "Basic humanity needs to be restored in Gaza. The indiscriminate bombing must stop. The egregious level of collective punishment currently being meted out on the people of Gaza must end."

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