UN chief says time to flood Gaza with aid, calls hunger an outrage

“Any new attack will make things even worse: worse for the Palestinian civilians, worse for the hostages and worse for all the people of the region.”

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RAFAH CROSSING, Egypt – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stood near a long line of waiting trucks Saturday and declared it was time to “truly flood Gaza with life-saving aid,” calling the famine within of the enclave as a “moral outrage.” He called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Guterres spoke on the Egyptian side of the border, not far from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israel plans to launch a ground attack despite widespread warnings of a possible disaster. More than half of Gaza’s population has taken refuge there.

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“Any new attack will make things even worse: worse for Palestinian civilians, worse for the hostages and worse for all the people of the region,” Guterres said.

He spoke a day after the UN Security Council failed to reach consensus on drafting a resolution supporting “an immediate and sustained ceasefire.”

Guterres repeatedly pointed out the difficulties in getting aid to Gaza, for which international aid agencies have largely blamed Israel.

“Here, from this intersection, we see the anguish and cruelty… a long line of aid trucks blocked on one side of the gates, the long shadow of hunger on the other,” he said.

He added: “It is time for Israel to make a strong commitment to achieving full access to Gaza for humanitarian goods and, in the compassionate spirit of Ramadan, it is also time for the immediate release of all hostages.”

Hamas is believed to be holding around 100 hostages, as well as the remains of another 30 captured in its Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and sparked the war.

It is estimated that 1.5 million Palestinians are currently taking refuge in Rafah.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that an Israeli ground attack on Rafah would be “a mistake” and unnecessary to defeat Hamas. That marked a change in the position of the United States, whose officials have concluded that there is no credible way to get protected civilians out of harm’s way.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with military-approved plans for the offensive, which he says is crucial to achieving his stated goal of destroying Hamas. The military has said that Rafah is Hamas’s last major stronghold and that ground forces must attack the four battalions that remain there.

Israel’s invasion has killed more than 32,000 people, according to Gaza health officials, leaving much of the enclave in ruins and displacing about 80% of the enclave’s 2.3 million residents.

Gaza’s Health Ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, but has said women and children make up the majority of the dead. Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths and accuses it of operating inside residential areas.

Clashes broke out on Saturday around Gaza’s largest hospital.

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Israel’s military said it had killed more than 170 militants at the Shifa hospital since the start of its attack five days ago. Residents near Gaza City told The Associated Press that Israeli troops had blown up several residential buildings.

“They are emptying the whole area,” said Abdel-Hay Saad, who lives on the western edge of Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Friday that the attack on the hospital complex had set fire to its departments treating patients with vascular diseases. He said the Israeli military had detained health workers, patients and family members inside the complex.

Samy Magdy reported from Cairo and Sam Metz from Rabat, Morocco. Jack Jeffery contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

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