CAIRO: United Nations chief Antonio Guterres pleaded on Saturday (Oct 21) for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Hamas militants that has devastated much of Gaza, demanding “action to end this godawful nightmare”.
Addressing a Cairo summit as the conflict raged into its third week, Guterres said the Palestinian enclave of 2.4 million people was living through “a humanitarian catastrophe” with thousands dead and more than a million displaced.
The summit came on the day a first contingent of 20 aid trucks rumbled into southern Gaza via the Rafah crossing, which Guterres said needed to be rapidly scaled up, with “much more” help sent through.
The crossing – the only one into Gaza not controlled by Israel – closed again after the trucks passed.
The lorries had been waiting for days on the Egyptian side after Israel agreed to a request from its main ally the United States to allow aid to enter.
The UN has said that about 100 trucks per day are needed to meet worsening needs in Gaza.
The Palestinians need “a continuous delivery of aid to Gaza at the scale that is needed”, the UN chief told the Cairo Summit for Peace.
“We meet in the heart of a region that is reeling in pain and one step from the precipice,” Guterres told the meeting that included the leaders of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as well as of Italy and Spain and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the aid and urged “all parties” to keep the Rafah crossing open.
But a Hamas spokesman said “even dozens” of such convoys could not meet Gaza’s needs, especially as no fuel was being allowed in to help distribute the supplies to those in need.