Staff deaths in Gaza reach unprecedented levels, says UN chief

Staff deaths in Gaza reach unprecedented levels, says UN chief

UNITED NATIONS: In a startling disclosure, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Sunday that 136 UN personnel had lost their lives in Gaza over the past 75 days, marking an unprecedented tragedy in UN history.

Mr Guterres expressed deep concern over the appalling human suffering, physical destruction in Gaza, and urged Israel not to continue its ‘collective punishment’ against the Palestinian people.

The secretary-general paid tribute to the UN staff, most of whom were forced from their homes, and thousands of aid workers risking their lives to support civilians in Gaza. He emphasized the international community’s responsibility to leverage its influence to prevent further escalation and end the crisis, urging Israel to avoid “collective punishment.”

“The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis,” Mr. Guterres insisted.

Guterres says at least 136 personnel killed over 75 days; HR organisations criticise Security Council’s ‘insufficient’ resolution

In response to the dire situation, the United Nations and its partners proposed a plan outlining the minimum necessary to scale up humanitarian operations, requiring an estimated $1.2 billion to sustain existing services amid ongoing hostilities. The UN appeal noted that the magnitude of this tragedy surpasses anything seen before in the Middle East.

The secretary-general also emphasized that a humanitarian ceasefire was the only way to stop the ongoing nightmare in Gaza, emphasizing the need for secure aid distribution within the territory.

UN Security Council criticised

In a separate statement, Amnesty International criticizsed the UN Security Council’s Dec. 22 resolution on Gaza, pointing out that it was insufficient in addressing the extensive destruction caused by Israel. Agnès Callamard, the Secretary-General of this global advocacy group, highlighted the resolution’s shortcomings, calling for an immediate ceasefire as the only acceptable solution to alleviate the mass civilian suffering.

“This is a much-needed resolution, but it remains woefully insufficient in the face of the ongoing carnage and extensive destruction wrought by the government of Israel’s attacks,” Mr. Callamard emphasized.

Amnesty International further assailed the watering down of the resolution, attributing it to the threat of a US veto. The organisation called attention to the failure of the Security Council to demand an immediate halt to the fighting.

“It is disgraceful that the US was able to stall and use the threat of its veto power to force the UN Security Council to weaken a much-needed call for an immediate end to attacks by all parties,” Mr. Callamard said.

Earlier drafts of the resolution had called for an urgent “cessation of hostilities” or “suspension of hostilities”, but this was removed due to objection from the US mission.

“The US’ removal of calls to suspend hostilities shows just how out of touch its policies are with the urgency and terror that Palestinians are experiencing,” remarked Sally Abi-Khalil, Oxfam’s Regional Director for the Middle East, and North Africa.

The International Rescue Committee labeled the failure to call for a ceasefire as “unjustifiable,” and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) USA criticized the revolution’s impact on civilians in Gaza as “nearly meaningless.”

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2023

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