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UN chief says Gaza in midst of 'epic humanitarian catastrophe'

UN chief says Gaza in midst of 'epic humanitarian catastrophe'


UN chief says Gaza in midst of 'epic humanitarian catastrophe'

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said the Gaza Strip was in the midst of an "epic humanitarian catastrophe", urging the world not to look away.

"Intense negotiations are taking place to prolong the truce – which we strongly welcome - but we believe we need a true humanitarian ceasefire," he told a meeting of the UN Security Council, chaired by China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi because China is president of the 15-member council for November.

Last-minute negotiations were continuing between Israel and Palestine’s Hamas on Wednesday to extend a truce in Gaza.

Guterres briefed the council on the implementation of a resolution it adopted earlier this month that called for humanitarian pauses in fighting to allow aid access and the release of all hostages held by Hamas.

The United Nations has scaled up the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza - a coastal enclave of 2.3 million people - during the truce, but Guterres said the level of aid "remains completely inadequate to meet the huge needs".

"The people of Gaza are in the midst of an epic humanitarian catastrophe before the eyes of the world," he said. "We must not look away."

Several Arab foreign ministers also travelled to New York and were due to address the council later on Wednesday.

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the Arab ministers of supporting "a terror organisation that aims to annihilate Israel".

"Anyone who supports a ceasefire basically support Hamas continued reign of terror in Gaza. Hamas is a genocidal terror organisation - they don't hide it - not a reliable partner for peace," Erdan told the Security Council.

Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostage in a surprise assault on Oct 7. Israel has focused its retaliation against Hamas in Gaza, bombarding it from the air, imposing a siege and launching a ground assault.

"The truce must become a ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire. The massacres cannot be allowed to resume," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told the Security Council.

"Our people are faced with an existential threat. Make no mistake about it. With all the talk about the destruction of Israel, it is Palestine that is facing a plan to destroy it, implemented in broad daylight," he said.