United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, on Monday, condemned the attacks by Hamas and others against Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza periphery, which left over 800 Israelis dead and more than 2,500 injured.
Guterres told newsmen in New York that he just concluded an extraordinary meeting of senior UN leaders to discuss the unprecedented developments in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
He said the number of deaths and those injured was expected to rise as the attacks were ongoing and many remained unaccounted for.
“In addition, over 100, possibly more, Israelis – civilians and military – have been reported captured by armed groups, including women, children and the elderly.
“Some are being held hostage inside Israel and many others have been taken inside the Gaza Strip,” Guterres said.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have launched thousands of indiscriminate rockets that have reached central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Guterres, who recognised the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people, however, said nothing could justify these acts of terror and the killing, maiming and abduction of civilians.
“I reiterate my call to immediately cease these attacks and release all hostages.
“In the face of these unprecedented attacks, Israeli airstrikes have pounded Gaza.
“I am deeply alarmed by reports of over 500 Palestinians – including women and children – killed in Gaza and over 3,000 injured.
“Unfortunately, these numbers are rising by the minute as Israeli operations continue,” the UN chief said.
The UN chief said while he recognised Israel’s legitimate security concerns, he also reminded Israel that military operations must be conducted in strict accordance with international humanitarian law.
“Civilians must be respected and protected at all times. Civilian infrastructure must never be a target.
“We already have reports of Israeli missiles striking health facilities inside Gaza as well as multi-storied residential towers and a mosque,” said Guterres.
“I am deeply distressed by today’s announcement that Israel will initiate a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, nothing allowed in – no electricity, food, or fuel.
“The humanitarian situation in Gaza was extremely dire before these hostilities; now it will only deteriorate exponentially.
“Medical equipment, food, fuel and other humanitarian supplies are desperately needed, along with access for humanitarian personnel.
“Relief and entry of essential supplies into Gaza must be facilitated – and the UN will continue efforts to provide aid to respond to these needs,” Guterres added