UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Hamas brutality could never justify “collective punishment” of Palestinians as Israel presses its campaign against Hamas in the Gaza strip.
Guterres convened an emergency meeting of the organization’s Security Council after weeks of fighting left over 17,170 people dead in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
“Some 130 hostages are still held captive. I call for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as their humane treatment and visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross until they are freed,” Guterres said.
“At the same time, the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
Vowing to destroy the Islamist movement, Israel has relentlessly bombarded Gaza and sent in tanks and ground troops since the war began on October 7 with unprecedented attacks by Hamas on southern Israel. Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and took hostages, 138 of whom remain captive, Israel says.
“I unreservedly condemn those attacks. I am appalled by the reports of sexual violence,” Guterres said.
“There is no possible justification for deliberately killing some 1,200 people, including 33 children, injuring thousands more, and taking hundreds of hostages.”
Guterres deployed rarely-used Article 99 of the UN Charter to bring to the council’s attention “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.
No one in his position had done this in decades.
Guterres is seeking a “humanitarian ceasefire” to prevent “a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians” and the entire Middle East.
Guterres sent his urgent letter and the United Arab Emirates prepared a draft resolution that will be put to a vote on Friday, said the delegation from Ecuador, which chairs the council this month and thus decides on scheduling issues.
The document calls the humanitarian situation in Gaza “catastrophic” and “demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”