At Ramadan start, Guterres calls for Gaza ceasefire, hostage release

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At Ramadan start, Guterres calls for Gaza ceasefire, hostage release

United Nations:  UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages to end the “civilian killing and destruction at a level that is unprecedented in all my years” in office.

In a statement at the beginning of the Muslim religious observance, he said: “My strongest appeal today is to honour the spirit of Ramadan by silencing the guns – and removing all obstacles to ensure the delivery of lifesaving aid at the speed and massive scale required.”

And in a message to Hamas, he added: “At the same time – and in the Ramadan spirit of compassion — I call for the immediate release of all hostages.”

Appealing to “political, religious and community leaders everywhere to do everything in their power to make this holy period a time for empathy, action and peace”, Guterres added: “Let’s not forget that beyond Ramadan, Christians will soon celebrate Easter and Jews will celebrate Passover in April.”

Efforts for a ceasefire through diplomacy by Qatar, the US, and Eqypt have been futile so far over the conditions imposed by Hamas and Israel.

Guterres also pointedly drew attention to Sudan where UN officials have reported mass killings, but which, unlike Gaza, has been generally ignored.

“Today, I also renew my appeal for a Ramadan cessation of hostilities in Sudan,” he said.

“The fighting there must end for the sake of the Sudanese people who face hunger, horrors and untold hardships.”

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported mass killings of violence and sexual violence directed against ethnic minorities in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The violence there is directed by the Arab Rapid Support Forces against non-Arab ethnic groups.

The Gaza war, sparked by the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage, resulted in a massive Israeli retaliation that has killed more than 30,000 people, most of them women and children, and the destruction of vast tracts there.

In Gaza, “International humanitarian law lies in tatters and a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah could plummet the people of Gaza into an even deeper circle of hell”, Guterres warned.

Israel ordered Gaza residents to the southern part of the territory as it sent ground forces into the north, and as the operations spread, more than 1.5 million people are sheltering in the Rafah region. As Israel’s threatened invasion of Rafah looms, the scale of Israeli attacks has led to the international isolation of Israel, with even the US expressing concern over the level of civilian casualties.

In an interview with the left-oriented news channel MSNBC, President Joe Biden warned that an attack on Rafah would cross a “red line” and “cannot have another 30,000 more Palestinians dead”.

In defiance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden has ordered US military air drops of food into Gaza, where Israel has restricted relief supplies, and the construction of a temporary pier to send in aid.

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