UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for an end to the vicious circle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis.
“This most recent violence does not come in a vacuum. The reality is that it grows out of a long-standing conflict, with a 56-year-long occupation and no political end in sight,” he said in a statement. “It’s time to end this vicious circle of bloodshed, hatred and polarization.”
Israel must see its legitimate security needs materialized, and Palestinians must see a clear perspective for the establishment of their own state realized. Only a negotiated peace that fulfills the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis, together with their security alike – the long-held vision of a two-state solution, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements – can bring long-term stability to the people of this land and the wider Middle East region, he said.
Guterres condemned the attacks by Hamas and others against Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza periphery, which he said had left over 800 Israelis dead and more than 2,500 others injured.
In addition, more than 100, possibly more, Israelis — civilians and military — had been reported captured by armed groups. Some were being held hostage inside Israel and many others had been taken inside the Gaza Strip, he noted.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had launched thousands of indiscriminate rockets that had reached central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, he said.
“I recognize the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people. But nothing can justify these acts of terror and the killing, maiming and abduction of civilians. I reiterate my call to immediately cease these attacks and release all hostages.”
Guterres expressed concern over Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Gaza.
“I am deeply alarmed by reports of over 500 Palestinians, including women and children, killed in Gaza and over 3,000 injured. Unfortunately, these numbers are rising by the minute as Israeli operations continue,” he said. “While I recognize Israel’s legitimate security concerns, I also remind Israel that military operations must be conducted in strict accordance with international humanitarian law.”
Civilians must be respected and protected at all times. Civilian infrastructure must never be a target, he said.
There were reports of Israeli missiles striking health facilities inside Gaza as well as multi-storied residential towers and a mosque. Two schools run by the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees sheltering displaced families in Gaza were also hit. Some 137,000 people were sheltering in the agency’s facilities – with the number increasing as heavy shelling and airstrikes continued, he noted.
Guterres said he was deeply distressed by Israeli’s announcement that it would initiate a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, with nothing allowed in – no electricity, food, or fuel.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza was extremely dire even before these hostilities. Now it would only deteriorate exponentially. Medical equipment, food, fuel and other humanitarian supplies are desperately needed, along with access for humanitarian personnel. Relief and entry of essential supplies into Gaza must be facilitated, he said.
“I urge all sides and the relevant parties to allow United Nations access to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians trapped and helpless in the Gaza Strip. I appeal to the international community to mobilize immediate humanitarian support for this effort,” said Guterres.