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Israel Brings Relentless Death, Destruction to Women, Children – U.N. Secretary General

New York, N.Y. The past six months of Israel’s military campaign has also brought “relentless death and destruction to Palestinians”, with over 32,000 reported killed, the vast majority women and children. “Lives are shattered. Respect for international law is in tatters,” he said.

The resulting humanitarian disaster is unprecedented, with more than a million “facing catastrophic hunger.” Children are dying due to lack of food and water: “This is incomprehensible and entirely avoidable”, the U.N. chief declared, repeating that nothing can justify such collective punishment. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the media outside the Security Council on the situation in Gaza. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Marking six months of war since the “abhorrent” Hamas-led terror attacks of 7 October, 2023, António Guterres told journalists at U.N. Headquarters in New York that nothing could justify the horror unleashed by Palestinian militants that day. 

“I once again utterly condemn the use of sexual violence, torture injuring and kidnapping of civilians, the firing of rockets towards civilian targets and the use of human shields”, he said, calling again for the unconditional release of all hostages still being held in the Gaza Strip. 

Having met many of the family members of those held captive “I carry their anguish, uncertainty and deep pain with me every day”, added Mr. Guterres.

‘Relentless Death’ 

But the past six months of Israel’s military campaign has also brought “relentless death and destruction to Palestinians”, with over 32,000 reported killed, the vast majority women and children. 

“Lives are shattered. Respect for international law is in tatters”, he said. 

The resulting humanitarian disaster is unprecedented, with more than a million “facing catastrophic hunger.” 

Children are dying due to lack of food and water: “This is incomprehensible and entirely avoidable”, the UN chief declared, repeating that nothing can justify such collective punishment. 

Weaponized AI

Mr. Guterres said he was deeply troubled by reports that the Israeli military has been using AI to help identify targets during its relentless bombing of densely populated areas of Gaza. 

“No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms,” he said.

AI should only be used as a force for good, not to wage war “on an industrial level, blurring accountability.” 

UNRWA staff in Amman, Jordan, attend a ceremony to remember colleagues who have lost their lives in Gaza. Credit: UNRWA/Shafiq Fahed.

Humanitarian Deaths

Branding the war “the deadliest of conflicts”, he highlighted that 196 humanitarians including over 175 U.N. staffers have been killed, the vast majority serving with Palestine relief agency UNRWA. 

“An information war has added to the trauma – obscuring facts and shifting blame”, said the U.N. chief, compounded by Israel denying journalists entry into Gaza, consequently allowing disinformation to spread. 

Tactics Must Change

And following the appalling killing of the seven staffers with World Central Kitchen, the main problem is not who made the mistakes but “the military strategy and procedures in place that allow for those mistakes to multiply time and time again”, the Secretary-General said. 

“Fixing those failures requires independent investigations and meaningful and measurable changes on the ground.” 

He said the U.N. had been told by the Israeli Government that it was now planning to allow a “meaningful increase” in the flow of aid to Gaza. The UN chief said he sincerely hoped the increase in aid would materialize quickly. 

‘Failure Would be Unforgivable’

“Dramatic humanitarian conditions require a quantum leap in the delivery of life-saving aid – a true paradigm shift.” 

He noted last week’s Security Council resolution calling for hostages’ releases, civilian protection and unimpeded aid delivery.  

“All those demands must be implemented. Failure would unforgivable,” he said. 

Six months on, the world stands on the brink of mass starvation in Gaza, a regional conflagration and a “total loss of faith in global standards and norms.”

A boy runs through the destroyed streets of Gaza. Credit: © UNRWA/Ashraf Amra.

A boy runs through the destroyed streets of Gaza. Credit: © UNRWA/Ashraf Amra.

Unprecedented Violations: U.N. Rights Office

The violations committed since 7 October in Israel and Gaza, as well as the destruction and suffering of civilians in the enclave are unprecedented, the U.N. human rights office, OHCHR, said on Friday, warning that the risk of further atrocity crimes is high. 

OHCHR upheld the need to ensure aid delivery and the protection of humanitarian workers, noting that attacks against them may amount to war crimes. 

The Israeli airstrikes that killed the World Central Kitchen personnel underline the horrific conditions under which humanitarians are operating in Gaza, said Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence told journalists in Geneva. 

“Israel has also killed law enforcement officials and others involved in securing humanitarian aid delivery, directly contributing to the breakdown of civil order and putting humanitarian workers and those in need of aid in further danger,” he added. 

Following the attacks, World Central Kitchen and other NGOs suspended aid delivery and distributions in Gaza, “increasing the already real risk of more deaths from famine and disease at larger scale.” 

War Crimes Warning

Mr. Laurence recalled that international law requires all warring parties to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and ensure their safety, security, and freedom of movement. 

As the occupying power, Israel has the additional obligation to ensure, to the fullest extent possible, that the basic needs of Gaza’s population are met. This means the authorities must either ensure that people can access food and medical care or facilitate the work of humanitarians delivering this assistance.  

“Attacking people or objects involved in humanitarian assistance may amount to a war crime,” he said. 

He pointed out that U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Türk has repeatedly stated that impunity must end.

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