UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, pictured on January 18, 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday warned that the bombarded Gaza Strip was becoming a "graveyard for children," as he urged an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour," he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

"The parties to the conflict -- and, indeed, the international community -- face an immediate and fundamental responsibility: to stop this inhuman collective suffering and dramatically expand humanitarian aid to Gaza," he said.

"The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity."

Hamas militants stormed into Israel from Gaza on October 7, killing some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, including through targeting homes and revelers at a music festival.

Israel's retaliatory strikes have killed 10,222 people, including more than 4,000 children, in the densely populated and besieged Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Guterres also deplored the killings of media workers. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 36 journalists and media workers have been killed.

"More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades," Guterres said, adding that 89 UN aid workers have also been killed.

Guterres was formally launching a recently announced $1.2 billion UN humanitarian appeal to help 2.7 million Palestinians over the entire Gaza Strip and parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Aid trucks have been coming into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, but the level remains well below that of before October 7, with Israel saying it needs time for security checks of vehicles. One restriction is that they are not bringing fuel.

"Without fuel, newborn babies in incubators and patients on life support will die," Guterres said.

"The way forward is clear. A humanitarian ceasefire -- now. All parties respecting all their obligations under international humanitarian law," he said.

Guterres again voiced alarm about the "clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing."

"Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law," he said.

Guterres did not name Israel Monday. He outraged the country's leaders on October 24 at a Security Council meeting where he alleged violations of humanitarian law and said that the Hamas attacks "did not occur in a vacuum," leading Israeli officials to accuse the UN chief of justifying violence.

Guterres denied that was his intention and on Monday repeated his condemnation of "the abhorrent acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas," and urged the Islamist militants to free hostages.

The UN Security Council, which has yet to pass any text on the conflict, met again Monday afternoon without a resolution.

According to diplomatic sources, there is no consensus on whether to call any interruption in fighting a "ceasefire" or "humanitarian pause."

"We talked about humanitarian pauses and we're interested in pursuing language on that score," US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said after the meeting. "But there are disagreements within the Council about whether that's acceptable."

And though all 15 members of the body recognize the "urgent humanitarian need" in Gaza, according to UAE Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, "the gaps remain on what is achievable on the ground."

"Without a cessation of hostilities, or some kind of humanitarian truce that is immediately implemented... far too many more will continue to lose their lives," she said, adding that the Security Council "feels enormous pressure to reach agreement."

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