GENEVA/GAZA CITY (The Thursday Times) – As Israeli airstrikes on Gaza intensify nearly one month into the conflict, leaders from various United Nations agencies united on Monday to demand a humanitarian ceasefire.
Eighteen heads of U.N. bodies, including U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, have condemned the ongoing siege and attacks on civilian populations, The Thursday Times has learnt.
An emphatic joint statement declared the current situation as unacceptable, highlighting the dire circumstances of an entire population being denied essential survival needs, and being targeted in their homes, shelters, and even places of worship.
“An entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship. This is unacceptable,” said the joint statement. “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now.”
Griffiths had previously called for temporary humanitarian “pauses” to facilitate aid deliveries, which have plummeted below pre-conflict levels. However, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour urged a full ceasefire, aligning with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to prioritize saving lives and an immediate cessation of hostilities. “You should be saying clearly and loudly in line with International Humanitarian Law that a ceasefire should take place. Saving lives should take place. An immediate cessation of all of these hostilities should take place. This is what I expect from you,” stated Mansour.
Despite international appeals for a ceasefire, Israel maintains its stance, citing the release of hostages taken by Hamas militants during their incursion into southern Israel on October 7 as a precondition. Hamas, on the other hand, refuses to release the hostages while under attack.
Reports from The Thursday Times‘ journalists in Gaza described one of the most intense overnight bombardments by Israeli forces by air, ground, and sea since the offensive began. The health ministry in the Hamas-governed Gaza has reported over 10,000 Palestinian deaths, including more than 4,000 children, overwhelming hospitals and causing a humanitarian crisis with a severe shortage of food, water, and medical aid.
In response to the crisis, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting the region to de-escalate tensions and discuss long-term solutions for Israel and the Palestinians. While the U.S. advocates for pauses in the conflict to allow humanitarian aid, it shares Israel’s concern that Hamas could exploit a complete ceasefire.
Blinken, speaking in Türkiye, expressed a commitment to increasing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, with expectations for significant expansions in aid in the near future.
Amidst these discussions, Iran has accused the U.S. of supporting genocide in Gaza, despite both countries acknowledging that Iran was not directly involved in the October 7 attack. Iran, however, is a known backer of Hamas and other Islamist militant groups in the region.
Tensions continue as Israel reports rocket launches from Lebanon, and Hamas claims missile launches towards Israeli cities. The devastation in Gaza is palpable, with citizens and rescue workers sifting through rubble for survivors of recent strikes. The Israeli military has reported 31 soldier fatalities since the expansion of ground operations in late October, while maintaining that Hamas is utilising civilian areas for cover, a claim Hamas urges the U.N. to investigate.