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UN chief calls for urgent steps to de-escalate situation in Gaza

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United Nations, Feb 1: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urgently appealed for measures to reduce tensions in Gaza and its neighbouring regions.
“I call for urgent steps to de-escalate the situation and spare the region from more violence before it is too late,” the top UN official told the meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on Wednesday.
“As we seek to address mounting needs in Gaza, we also remain focused on the deteriorating situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” said the Secretary-General.
“I am extremely alarmed by the high levels of settler violence in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian attacks against Israelis also continue.” “All of this violence must stop, and the perpetrators held accountable,” he added.
The Secretary-General commended the vital role of the committee amid the protracted question of Palestine and escalating violence, particularly highlighted by the October 7 attack by Hamas in Israel and Israel’s ensuing military operations in Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported. Describing the aftermath in Gaza as “a scar on our shared humanity and conscience,” the Secretary-General lamented the “death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss, and grief” over the past 120 days.
Highlighting the relentless bombardment and conflict, he said, “The ongoing conflict and relentless bombardment by Israeli forces across Gaza have resulted in killings of civilians and destruction at a pace and scale unlike anything we have witnessed in recent years.”
He expressed horror at the military strikes that “have killed and maimed civilians,” emphasising that over “26,750 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in Gaza alone – more than two-thirds women and children”.
Guterres pointed out the severe impact on civilian infrastructure, with “over 70 per cent… including homes, hospitals, schools, water, and sanitation facilities in Gaza — have been destroyed or severely damaged,” leading to 1.7 million displacements.
Reaffirming the principles of international humanitarian law, he stressed that “no party to an armed conflict is above international law”. The Secretary-General also addressed serious allegations against staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), saying that “I was personally horrified by these accusations”.
Meanwhile, from Geneva, the head of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that cutting funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would have “catastrophic consequences” for people in war-torn Gaza. (IANS)

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