UN Chief Guterres Advocates End to Israeli Blockade on Gaza

After several Israeli wars that killed thousands, Gaza remains under siege. (Photo: File)

In a visit to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres called for Palestinian national reconciliation and demanded that Israel’s decade-long blockade on the territory be lifted, describing life in the besieged coastal enclave as “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises” he had seen.

The UN chief, who held talks with Palestinian and Israeli leadership Monday and Tuesday, told reporters he was “deeply moved to be in Gaza today, unfortunately to witness one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I’ve seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations.”

He said it was “important to open the closures,” imposed on the enclave, referring to the Israeli blockade that is upheld by Egypt on the Palestinian territory’s southern border.

Guterres also announced the emergency release of $4 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund for UN operations in Gaza.

During the press conference, held at a school in Beit Lahiya run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Guterres reiterated his support for the two-state solution in which a Palestinian state, including Gaza, would live “in peace and security together” with Israel.

His dream, Guterres said, was that he “would be to be able to come back to Gaza one day and to see Gaza as part of a Palestinian state in peace, with prosperity and welfare for the people of this wonderful place.”

The Hamas government welcomed the secretary-general’s visit. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement Wednesday that the visit was an important acknowledgment of the diplomatic and international importance of the Gaza Strip and of the dangerous humanitarian conditions Gazans have been subjected to for a decade under siege.

Barhoum said that Hamas was hopeful that Guterres would meet with the families of Palestinian prisoners, Palestinians who need to leave the blockaded territory for medical treatment but cannot secure permission, the victims of home demolitions, and others who have suffered at the hands of Israeli aggression in Gaza.

According to Israeli news site Haaretz, Guterres is not scheduled to meet with any Hamas leaders, but after being briefed by UN leadership on the situation in Gaza, he will meet with “Palestinian notables and Gaza clan leaders.”

The Hamas spokesperson also called on Guterres to undertake every effort to lift the Israeli siege on the two million residents of the “biggest prison in the world,” he said, referring to the Gaza Strip.

In 2012, the UN warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current trends were not altered. However, a new report released last month by the UN said that “life for the average Palestinian in Gaza is getting more and more wretched,” and that for the majority of Gaza’s residents, the territory may already be unlivable.

(Maan, PC, Social Media)

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