United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Wednesday for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.
Speaking at a forum of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in Beijing, he reiterated what he called “two urgent humanitarian appeals”.
He called on Hamas for the “immediate and unconditional release of hostages”.
He also called on Israel to “immediately allow unrestricted access of humanitarian aid to respond to the most basic needs of the people of Gaza, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and children”.
“I call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to provide sufficient time and space to help realise my two appeals and to ease the epic human suffering we are witnessing,” Guterres said.
“Too many lives and the fate of the entire region hang in the balance.”
Meanwhile thousands of people trying to escape Gaza are gathered in Rafah, which has the territory’s only border crossing to Egypt. Mediators are pressing for an agreement to let aid in and refugees with foreign passports out.
Aid workers warned that life in Gaza was near complete collapse because of the Israeli siege that followed a Hamas attack on Israel.
The 22 Arab countries at the United Nations joined in demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza following the devastating explosion and fire at a Gaza City hospital.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, said Arab Group members are “outraged by this massacre” and also united in demanding the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid and preventing “forcible displacement” of Palestinians.
Mansour said that after the “massacre,” the highest objective is a cease-fire because “saving lives is the most important thing.
An explosion at the al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza that has reportedly left hundreds dead has become a lightning rod for anger across the region, sparking protests across the Arab world and beyond.
Hamas has blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military has said the hospital was hit by a rocket barrage launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group. Islamic Jihad also denied responsibility.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah called for a “day of rage” to coincide with US president Joe Biden’s arrival to the region.
Following Hezbollah’s call, hundreds of demonstrators scuffled with Lebanese security forces outside the US embassy in the suburb of Awkar, outside Beirut, where protesters hurled stones and set a nearby building on fire, Agence France-Presse reported.
Police fired several rounds of teargas to disperse protesters, while medics treated people affected by the teargas. AFP reported the protesters chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel”. Hundreds also gathered at the French embassy in Beirut, raising Hezbollah flags and also hurling stones which piled up at the embassy’s main entrance.
The UN agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, has just posted this to X:
On Tuesday, at least six people were killed in an Israeli air strike that hit a school run by UNRWA in Gaza’s Al-Maghazi refugee camp, the agency posted on X social media platform.
UN secretary-general António Guterres earlier said, referring to the blast on the hospital as a “strike”, “I am horrified by the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in a strike on a hospital in Gaza today, which I strongly condemn. My heart is with the families of the victims. Hospitals and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law.”
The Gaza hospital explosion has deepened tensions in the Middle East and raised the stakes for US President Joe Biden as he flies to Israel to signal support for its war against Hamas. Biden will pose “tough questions“ in meetings with Israeli leaders, the White House said.
Israel blamed the blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital on a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied responsibility.
Palestinian ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble.
Al Jazeera carried footage showing a frantic scene as rescue workers scoured blood-stained debris for survivors. Rescuers and civilians were shown carrying away at least four victims in body bags. A Gaza civil defence chief gave a death toll of 300, while health ministry sources put it at 500.
Biden’s complex diplomatic mission to the Middle East was supposed to calm the region and shore up humanitarian efforts for Gaza, but after the strike, Jordan cancelled a planned summit with the US president, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Abbas also cancelled plans to meet Biden.
It is nearing 7am in Gaza City and Tel Aviv. Here is where things stand:
Following the blast at al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza where hundreds of people were sheltering and patients were being treated, protests have ignited in cities across the Middle East, including in Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. The blast killed between 300 and 500 people.
Hundreds of Palestinians have flooded the streets of major West Bank cities including Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, where protesters hurled stones at Palestinian security forces who fired back with stun grenades.
Hundreds more demonstrators scuffled with Lebanese security forces outside the US embassy in the village of Awkar on Thursday night, according to AFP correspondents.
Several hundred people protested in Tripoli and other Libyan cities late Tuesday over the blast at the Gaza hospital, according to AFP journalists. In Tripoli, hundreds of demonstrators of all ages, brandishing Palestinian flags and some covering their faces with Palestinian keffiyehs, crisscrossed the streets of the city centre before converging on Martyrs’ Square.
Meanwhile US president Joe Biden is due to arrive in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in a massive explosion at a crowded hospital in Gaza City, in the biggest single loss of life in the blockaded territory in all the five wars between Hamas and Israel since the militants took over the strip in 2007.
The Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas, said at least 500 people were killed on Tuesday night in what it said was an Israeli airstrike on al-Ahli al-Arabi, also known as the Baptist hospital. A spokesperson for the Gaza civil defence put the number of killed at about 300.
White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the US is ‘getting close to a framework for Aid to get into Gaza from Egypt”.
The number of Americans killed from the Hamas attack on Israel now stands at 31, White House spokesperson Kirby said on Tuesday. Kirby said the United States would continue to speak to Israel about the need to protect innocent civilian life. President Joe Biden is on his way to Israel to show US support in the aftermath of the Hamas attack.
The Israeli military said an initial investigation suggested the explosion was caused by a failed Hamas rocket launch, before saying it was the result of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket barrage. Islamic Jihad denied the Israeli allegation, and the scale of the blast appeared to be outside the militant groups’ capabilities.
Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad on Wednesday described as “lies” the Israel army’s accusations that it was responsible for a strike on a Gaza hospital that left hundreds dead.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was “horrified” by what he called the “strike” on a hospital in Gaza, he said in post on X on Tuesday. “My heart is with the families of the victims. Hospitals and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law,” Guterres said.
Guterres will arrive in Cairo on Thursday, focused on reopening the Gaza border to allow in desperately needed aid for millions of Palestinians.
US to announce new sanctions against Hamas leaders this week – report. The US Treasury Department is preparing to announce new sanctions against several leaders of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas this week after their attack on Israel earlier this month, Axios is reporting, citing US officials.
Reports said violence had erupted between protesters and Palestinian security forces in several cities in the West Bank. In central Ramallah, teargas and stun grenades were fired to disperse protesters throwing rocks and chanting against the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters reported anger was boiling over after the deadly attack on a Gaza hospital on Tuesday that the authority said was a “cold-blooded massacre” by Israel.
Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said the UK will work with allies to “find out what has happened” at the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist hospital in Gaza. Cleverly, posting to social media, described the destruction of the hospital as “a devastating loss of human life” and that the UK has been “clear” that the “protection of civilian life must come first”.
The White House announced that Joe Biden would no longer travel to Jordan. The decision came after Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said that Jordan was no longer holding a planned summit with the US president and the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders that was scheduled to take place in Amman on Wednesday. Safadi, speaking to Al Jazeera, said the summit was cancelled because “there is no use in talking now about anything except stopping the war”.
Earlier on Tuesday, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said an Israeli airstrike had killed at least six people after striking one of its schools that has been functioning as a shelter for displaced people. Several hospitals in Gaza have become refuges for hundreds of people hoping to be spared bombardment.
Health authorities in Gaza say at least 3,000 people have been killed in Israel’s bombardment since 7 October. At least 940 children and 1,032 women have been killed, the Hamas government media office said. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has declared three days of mourning after the deadly airstrike on Gaza’s Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist hospital.
Fears are growing that people in Gaza are beginning to dehydrate to death as clean water runs out, with Israeli airstrikes continuing to pound the Palestinian territory of 2.3 million residents amid a total blockade on food, electricity, medicine and fuel.
The US state department has raised its travel alert for Lebanon to “do not travel,” citing the security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah, Reuters reported. The State Department authorised the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of US government personnel and some non-emergency personnel from the US Embassy in Beirut because of the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon.