Gaza becoming a graveyard for children: UN chief

Palestinians evacuate the site of Israeli strikes on houses, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, 6 November 2023.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said on Monday that the protection of civilians "must be paramount" in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas, warning that the Gaza Strip was becoming "a graveyard for children."

"We must act now to find a way out of this brutal, awful, agonizing dead end of destruction," Guterres told reporters, and again called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, after the militants killed 1,400 people and took more than 240 hostages in a 7 October attack. Israel has struck Gaza from the air, imposed a siege and launched a ground invasion. Palestinian health authorities said the death toll in Gaza exceeds 10,000.

"Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day," Guterres said.

He said clear violations of international humanitarian law were being committed. He said the UN needs $1.2 billion to help deliver aid to 2.7 million people in Gaza and the West Bank.

"Ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and UN facilities – including shelters. No one is safe," Guterres told reporters.

"At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel," he said.

Guterres said 89 people working with the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) had been killed in Gaza, which he described as the highest toll for UN aid workers, higher "than in any comparable period in the history of our organization."

Aid trucks have been trickling into Gaza from Egypt via Rafah, the main crossing that does not border Israel. But UN officials have repeatedly said this was insufficient for Gaza's civilian population of about 2.3 million, more than one million of whom have been made homeless by Israel's bombardment.

"The trickle of assistance does not meet the ocean of need," Guterres said. "The Rafah crossing alone does not have the capacity to process aid trucks at the scale required."

He said just over 400 trucks had crossed into Gaza over the past two weeks, compared with 500 a day before the conflict, adding the numbers did not include fuel supplies.

The United Nations last week said more than one border crossing was needed to deliver aid to the besieged Gaza Strip and Kerem Shalom - controlled by Israel - is the only one equipped to take enough trucks.