U.N. Chief Calls Conditions in Gaza a ‘Moral Outrage’

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, reiterated his call on Saturday for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, using a visit to a border crossing in Egypt to slam the “nonstop nightmare” Palestinians faced in the territory.

“I want Palestinians in Gaza to know: You are not alone,” Mr. Guterres said. “People around the world are outraged about the horrors we are all witnessing in real time. I carry the voices of the vast majority of the world: We have seen enough. We have heard enough.”

Mr. Guterres spoke to reporters from the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, one of the two main ground corridors being used to transport desperately needed humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. More than five months into Israel’s war against Hamas, Palestinians in Gaza are facing widespread hunger and deprivation despite a huge international relief effort.

For months, aid organizations have struggled to transport and distribute sufficient food and other supplies in Gaza, which faces a blockade that is jointly enforced by Egypt and Israel.

U.N. officials have said the obstacles include lengthy Israeli security inspections, attacks on aid convoys by desperate Palestinians and organized gangs, and roads badly damaged by months of airstrikes and fighting. Israel has blamed the delays on U.N. staffing and logistics and says it does not impose limits on the amount of aid that can enter Gaza.

The worsening conditions this week led the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a global authority that has classified food security crises for decades, to project that famine was “imminent” for the 300,000 Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza. Aid groups and U.N. officials have argued that it would be better for Israel to ease entry restrictions for trucks at established crossing points into the enclave and to do more to speed the delivery of goods inside Gaza.

“From this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all: a long line of blocked red relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other,” Mr. Guterres said. “That is more than tragic — it is a moral outrage.”

Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, Israel Katz, responded to Mr. Guterres in a post on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. Mr. Katz criticized the secretary general for suggesting Israel was to blame for the humanitarian situation in Gaza without also condemning Hamas and the United Nations for their roles, and for doing so “without calling for the immediate, unconditional release of all Israeli hostages.”

The visit to the border by Mr. Guterres came a day after a draft U.N. Security Council resolution, backed by the United States and calling for an “immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza,” failed to pass when Russia, China and Algeria voted against it at a meeting of the council in New York.

The resolution, which included some of Washington’s strongest language since the start of the war, was criticized by those who opposed it and others for not demanding a permanent end to the war. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, denounced the U.S.-backed measure before the vote, calling it a “hypocritical initiative” that did not do enough “to save the lives of Palestinians.”

In recent weeks, Israel and Hamas have held indirect talks — mediated by Qatar and Egypt — to try to reach a cease-fire deal. The proposal would also include the release of at least some of the more than 100 remaining hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

Israel started its campaign in Gaza after a surprise attack led by Hamas on Oct. 7 that killed over 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, with more than 250 people taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. Five months later, more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza health ministry, and wide areas of the enclave have been leveled.

Israeli leaders have vowed to send ground troops into Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where about a million Palestinians have sought refuge from the fighting. President Biden expressed “deep concerns” over a major Israeli operation in Rafah during a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel this week, according to the White House. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Friday that an assault on Rafah risked “further isolating Israel around the world.”

Israel says the operation is necessary to root out remaining Hamas fighters in the city. Mr. Netanyahu vowed on Friday that Israel would invade Rafah regardless of whether the United States backed the decision. “I hope we will do it with the support of the U.S.,” Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Blinken, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office. “But if we must, we will do it alone.”

Mr. Netanyahu said Israel would seek to evacuate civilians from combat areas. But U.N. officials like Mr. Guterres have warned that the potential offensive was still likely to have dire consequences.

“Any further onslaught will make things even worse,” Mr. Guterres said. “Worse for Palestinian civilians, worse for the hostages and worse for all people of the region.”

Leave a Comment