(Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday that he was surprised by Israel’s escalation of bombing of Gaza and repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire on humanitarian grounds in order to deliver aid.
“I have been encouraged in recent days by what appears to be a growing consensus in the international community… on the need for at least a humanitarian truce in the fighting,” Guterres said in a statement.
He said: “Unfortunately, instead of stopping, I was surprised by an unprecedented escalation of bombing and its devastating effects, which undermines the aforementioned humanitarian goals.”
Guterres’ comments come in the wake of Israel’s escalation of its weeks-long retaliation against the attack carried out by the Palestinian Hamas movement on October 7, which killed 1,400 Israelis.
Relief agencies say a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding for Gaza’s 2.3 million people, who are subject to a complete Israeli blockade. Health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave said that 7,650 Palestinians, most of whom were also civilians, had been killed since the start of the Israeli bombing.
Gaza has witnessed an almost complete communications blackout since Friday evening, for which the Palestinian Red Crescent holds Israel responsible.
“Given the breakdown in communications, I am also deeply concerned about the UN staff who are in Gaza to provide humanitarian assistance,” Guterres said on Saturday. “This situation must be reversed.”
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that power outages prevent ambulances and patient evacuations and deprive people of safe shelter.
He and other relief agencies said they could not contact their staff, but a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Gaza obtained a voice message.
Calls for a ceasefire are increasing around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in cities around the world on Saturday in support of Palestine.
(Reporting by Michelle Nicholls; Writing by Ishmael Shakil and Moira Warburton; Editing by Diane Craft)
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