UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits Gaza border to press for ceasefire

Guterres's visit comes amid Israeli threats of a major military operation in the city of Rafah

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Egyptian city of El Arish, adjacent to the Gaza Strip, on Saturday, where he inspected Palestinian wounded at the city’s hospital, marking his second visit since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on October 7 last year.

Guterres seeks to renew calls for a ceasefire in the ongoing war between Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) for more than five months, which has caused massive destruction in Gaza amid growing fears of the population facing the risk of famine. His visit comes as Israel threatens to launch a major military operation in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on the border with Egypt, despite international appeals to prevent such an attack.

The majority of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people lives in the vicinity of Rafah. While conditions are worst in the northern part of the strip, the plight of civilians throughout the territory has worsened significantly amidst the ongoing conflict.

Guterres will visit El Arish in northern Sinai, Egypt, where much of the international relief aid for Gaza is delivered and stored, as well as the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, one of the aid entry points. He is expected to visit a hospital in El Arish and meet with UN relief workers in Rafah.

With hopes fading for a ceasefire during Ramadan and the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsening, the United States and other countries are resorting to using air and sea drops to deliver more relief supplies. However, humanitarian agencies say that only about a fifth of the required supplies have entered Gaza, and have indicated that the only way to meet the needs in the coastal enclave is to expedite delivery operations by land.

Israel, which has vowed to eliminate Hamas and fears the movement may divert aid shipments, has kept all of its land crossings into the strip closed except for one.

Last week, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) monitoring the global hunger situation warned that famine is imminent in northern Gaza and may spread to other parts of the strip if a ceasefire is not agreed upon.

The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of over 32,000 people, many of them women and children, according to local health authorities.

In addition to Egypt, Guterres is visiting Jordan as part of an annual “solidarity tour” of Muslim countries during Ramadan. The UN Secretary-General had previously visited the Egyptian border with Gaza shortly after the outbreak of the war.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to target the remaining medical facilities. The Gaza government’s media office said on Saturday that the Israeli army threatened to bomb and destroy the Al-Shifa Medical Complex west of Gaza City, over the heads of medical staff and those inside.

The media office stated in a statement, “We have received reports from inside the Al-Shifa Medical Complex indicating that the Israeli occupation army is threatening the medical staff inside the hospital buildings and the displaced persons that it will bomb and destroy those buildings over their heads, or that they will be taken out for torture, interrogation, and execution.” The office expressed its “strong condemnation” of this “organized crime” that the Israeli army continues to commit “with all brutality and revenge,” holding the US administration and the international community “fully responsible for the continuation of the crime against the Al-Shifa Medical Complex, medical staff, and wounded, patients, and displaced civilians.”

The world’s countries were urged to “condemn the genocide practiced by the occupation with all brutality, to step out of the square of silence, and to play a practical role in stopping the ongoing war and massacres in various forms.”

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