UN chief urges for immediate cease-fire in Gaza

UN Chief Antonio Guterres
UN Chief Antonio Guterres

SRINAGAR — The UN chief urged for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers at the start of a UN General Assembly emergency meeting in New York.

The session is expected to hear from about 100 speakers, including 12 ministers mainly from Arab and Islamic countries.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Thursday’s in-person meeting in the assembly chamber that he and the U.N. Mideast envoy are engaged in extensive diplomatic efforts in the region, including with Egypt, Jordan and Qatar, to stop the fighting.

He called on all members of the international community to do everything in their power to enable the parties to conflict to step back from the brink.

The U.N. chief also called on Israel and Hamas to allow for mediation efforts to intensify in order to bring the fighting to an end.

Guterres implicitly criticised Israel and Hamas for violating the laws of war which ban indiscriminate attacks and attacks against civilians and civilian property as well as attacks on military targets that cause disproportionate civilian casualties.

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He said counter-terrorism or self-defense are not justifications for the conflict to continue.

This is the first UN meeting that has seen the physical presence of foreign ministers since the COVID-19 pandemic paralysed the world. Prior to this, the UN had been holding virtual meetings in the wake of the pandemic.

It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan has joined hands with Palestine, Sudan and Turkey to take a united stance at the UNGA session.

Soon after his arrival in New York, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hosted a working dinner of the foreign ministers of OIC member states to discuss the situation in Palestine.

“We hope the UNGA meeting will send a strong message … to end the Israeli aggression and to take concrete steps to find a solution to the Palestine issue,” said the foreign minister while addressing the dinner.

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A statement issued by Pakistan’s UN mission said that the foreign minister’s visit to New York was part of Pakistan’s intensive diplomatic outreach to mobilise international support for ending the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinians.

The UNGA session follows an intensive international effort to secure a ceasefire in the occupied Palestinian territories after a week of deadly cross-border violence.

Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed 230 Palestinians, including 65 children, according to the Gaza health ministry, leaving vast areas in rubble and displacing tens of thousands in the crowded territory.

Israel’s Army has meanwhile said Hamas and other Islamist armed groups in Gaza have fired 4,070 rockets towards Israel, the overwhelming majority of them intercepted by its Iron Dome air defences. The rockets have claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child, with one Indian and two Thai nationals among those killed, the police said.

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