UN chief calls for Gaza truce as Ramadan begins


The head of the United Nations is urging Israel and Hamas to honour the spirit of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by “silencing the guns” and to show compassion by releasing all hostages seized by the militant group during its attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that Monday marks the start of Ramadan, when “Muslims around the world celebrate and spread the values of peace, reconciliation and solidarity.”

Yet in Gaza, “the killing, bombing and bloodshed continue,” he said, with civilian killings and destruction in the territory “at a level that is unprecedented” in his more than seven years as UN secretary-general.

He warned that Israel’s threatened assault on the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have sought safety, “could plummet the people of Gaza into an even deeper circle of hell.”

Guterres said life-saving humanitarian assistance is only entering Gaza “in trickles,” and in the Ramadan spirit he called for the removal of all obstacles so food and other aid can be delivered with speed and on a massive scale.

“The eyes of the world are watching. The eyes of history are watching. We cannot look away,” said Guterres, who has been calling for a humanitarian ceasefire for months. “We must act to avoid more preventable deaths.… Desperate civilians need action — immediate action.”

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. Hamas is believed to still be holding around 100 captives.

The Israeli military campaign has driven around 80 per cent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine. Gaza’s health ministry said that at least 31,112 Palestinians have been killed since the war began.

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