UN agencies welcome aid convoys’ entry into besieged Gaza
Cairo – UN chief Antonio Guterres pleaded Saturday for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas, demanding global “action to end this godawful nightmare”. Addressing a peace summit in Cairo as the war raged into its third week, Guterres said the tiny Palestinian enclave of 2.4 million people was living through “a humanitarian catastrophe” with thousands dead and more than a million people displaced.
His remarks came just hours after a first contingent of aid trucks rumbled into southern Gaza, which Guterres said needed to be rapidly scaled up, with “much more” help sent through. The Palestinians need “a continuous delivery of aid to Gaza at the scale that is needed”, he told the Cairo “Summit for Peace” which was attended by many Arab leaders.
Israel has hit Palestinians with a relentless bombing campaign, killing more than 4,100 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Gaza’s Hamasrun health ministry. Although diplomatic efforts to end the violence have made little headway, Cairo — historically a key mediator between Hamas and Israel — announced plans to hold the summit a week into the war, urging “restraint” and calling for a return to peace talks, which have been frozen for years. Diplomatic efforts have so far focused on getting humanitarian aid into the war-torn enclave where Israel has imposed a total siege, cutting off supplies of water, electricity, fuel and food.
Meanwhile, UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths welcomed the entry of an aid convoy into Gaza on Saturday, the first since the start of deadly Israeli bombing of the ravaged enclave two weeks ago.
The 20-truck convoy that passed through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt carried life-saving supplies provided by the Egyptian Red Crescent and the UN, including enough water for 22,000 people– but only for one day. The items were approved to cross and be received by the Palestinian Red Crescent, with UN support. “I am confident that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies – including food, water, medicine and fuel – to the people of Gaza, in a safe, dependable, unconditional and unimpeded manner,” Griffiths said in a statement published on his official account on X, formerly Twitter.
The delivery on Saturday follows days of deep and intense negotiations with all relevant sides to ensure that the aid operation resumes as quickly as possible and with the right conditions. Griffiths said the already precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza “has reached catastrophic levels” since the hostilities began, and it is critical that aid reaches people in need wherever they are across Gaza, and at the right scale. “The people of Gaza have endured decades of suffering. The international community cannot continue to fail them,” he said. The Rafah crossing is the sole one open with Gaza, and hundreds of trucks have been waiting to enter Gaza, where essential items are running out.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) also announced that medical supplies from the agency had crossed the border “but the needs are far higher.” Posting on X, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the need for safe passage of additional convoys, protection of all humanitarian workers, and sustained access for health aid. In a statement, WHO said that hospitals inside Gaza have already reached breaking point due to shortages and depletion of medicines and medical supplies, which are a “lifeline” for injured persons or those battling chronic and other illnesses.