Escalating Gaza Conflict: UN and WHO Call for Upholding Humanitarian Principles Amid Hostage Crisis
Geneva/New York – The crescendo of violence in the Gaza Strip and the hostage crisis stemming from the October 7 terror acts by Hamas in Israel have elicited grave concerns from international bodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) have articulated urgent calls for humanitarian action, highlighting the escalating torment faced by civilians amid the dire situation in the Middle East.
Following an engaging dialogue with the Israeli non-governmental entity, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed the acute necessity for the immediate release of around 200 hostages seized by Hamas and other armed factions. The captive group includes health professionals, women, children, and the elderly, many of whom are grappling with pre-existing health conditions necessitating medical attention. The psychological distress tormenting both the hostages and their families underscores the essential need for psychosocial support.
‘Even War Has Rules’, Secretary-General Tells Security Council
In a parallel vein, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, while addressing the Security Council’s open debate on the Middle East in New York, delineated the exacerbating scenario in the region. The relentless war in Gaza, fuelled by societal divisions and burgeoning tensions, poses a menacing threat of spiralling unrest throughout the Middle East. Guterres emphasized the cardinal principle of civilian respect and protection, unequivocally condemning the horrifying October 7 acts of terror by Hamas.
Guterres underscored that nothing could justify the deliberate maiming, killing, and abduction of civilians or the rocket attacks targeting civilian areas. He demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, acknowledging the presence of their family members during the discourse.
Highlighting the context of the attacks, Guterres mentioned the 56-year suffocating occupation endured by the Palestinian people, who have witnessed their land being engulfed by settlements, their economy stifled, and hopes for a political solution dwindling. However, he stressed that the grievances of the Palestinian populace did not justify Hamas’ appalling attacks, nor did these attacks warrant collective punishment.
Both Guterres and Dr. Tedros accentuated the imperative of adhering to international humanitarian law even amid war. They urged all parties to exercise utmost caution in military operations to spare civilians, respect and safeguard medical facilities, and uphold the inviolability of UN establishments currently sheltering over 600,000 Palestinians.
The unison in calls from both the UN and WHO outlines the critical need for urgent humanitarian actions, underscoring the importance of international cooperation to alleviate suffering and ensure the safety and wellbeing of civilians embroiled in the conflict.