UN chief Guterres warns against Israel’s planned op in Rafah

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the General Assembly to present priorities for 2024 at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 7, 2024. (AFP Photo)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed alarm about Israel’s planned military operation in Rafah in southern Gaza.

“I am especially alarmed by reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah – where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety,” Guterres told the U.N. General Assembly about 2024 priorities.

His remarks came after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday that the army’s next target in Gaza will be Rafah, claiming it is the last remaining stronghold of the Palestinian group, Hamas.

“Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.

Israeli forces, in their campaign to destroy Hamas after its attack on Oct. 7, have relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip and carried out a ground invasion, displacing over a million people, mostly civilians, southward.

“It is time for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and the unconditional release of all hostages,” Guterres said.

The situation in Gaza is “a festering wound on our collective conscience” that threatens the entire region, he added.

“Nothing justifies the horrific terror attacks launched by Hamas against Israel on 7 October. Nor is there any justification for the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

“Yet, Israeli military operations have resulted in destruction and death in Gaza at a scale and speed without parallel since I became Secretary-General,” said Guterres.

The chief also pushed for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, based on U.N. resolutions, international law and previous agreements.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive on Gaza following an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, killing at least 27,585 Palestinians and injuring 66,978 others. Nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

‘So much anger and hate and noise in our world today’

Guterres said peace is the reason for coexistence, but it is “the one thing missing most dramatically” in today’s world.

As conflicts rage and geopolitical divisions grow, peace in the world is threatened, he said.

“There is so much anger and hate and noise in our world today. Every day and at every turn, it seems – it’s war. Terrible conflicts that are killing and maiming civilians in record numbers.

“Our obligation is to act together for peace in all its dimensions,” he said.

If countries fulfilled their obligations under the U.N. Charter, Guterres said every person’s right to a life of peace and dignity would be guaranteed.

“But governments are ignoring and undermining the very tenets of multilateralism – with zero accountability.

“The U.N. Security Council – the primary platform for questions of global peace – is deadlocked by geopolitical fissures. This is not the first time the Council has been divided. But it is the worst. Today’s dysfunction is deeper and more dangerous,” he said.

Stressing that there were well-established mechanisms to help manage superpower relations during the Cold War, he said in today’s multi polar world, such mechanisms are missing.

“Our world has entered an age of chaos. We are seeing the results: a dangerous and unpredictable free-for-all with total impunity,” he added.

‘We must also make peace with the planet’

Guterres said peace needs to be achieved within communities.

Around the world, communities are divided by rising hate speech, discrimination, extremism and human rights abuses, he warned.

“We must also make peace with the planet. Humanity has waged a war we can only lose: our war with nature. It is a crazy fight to pick,” he said.

The climate crisis remains the “defining challenge of our time,” he said.

“The coming years will largely determine whether we can limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees (Celsius, 2.7 Fahrenheit). To stay within that limit, we must cut emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. And we need emissions to have peaked by 2025,” Guterres added.

By 2025, every country must commit to new national climate plans aligned with the 1.5-degree limit, he said, mobilizing the entire U.N. system to assist.

“New national plans should cover all emissions and sectors. They should map a just transition to clean energy,” he added.

By Agencies





Related Articles

Back to top button