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UN chief says it’s time to ‘truly flood’ Gaza with aid

Updated March 23, 2024 - 12:46 pm

RAFAH CROSSING, Egypt — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres stood near a long line of waiting trucks Saturday and declared it was time to “truly flood Gaza with lifesaving aid.” He urged an immediate cease-fire 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 assault despite widespread warnings of a potential catastrophe.

Guterres repeatedly noted the difficulties of getting aid into Gaza, for which international aid agencies have largely blamed Israel.

About 7,000 aid trucks are waiting in Egypt’s North Sinai province to enter Gaza, Gov. Mohammed Abdel-Fadeil Shousha said in a statement.

“It is time for an ironclad commitment by Israel for total … access for humanitarian goods to Gaza, and in the Ramadan spirit of compassion, it is also time for the immediate release of all hostages,” Guterres said. He later told journalists that a humanitarian cease-fire and hostage release should occur at the same time.

Hamas is believed to be holding around 100 hostages as well as the remains of 30 others taken in its Oct. 7 terrorist attack that sparked the war.

When asked about Guterres’ comments, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to a social media post by Foreign Minister Israel Katz accusing the U.N. chief of allowing the world body to become “antisemitic and anti-Israeli.”

Netanyahu has vowed to press forward with military-approved plans for the offensive, which he has said is crucial to achieving the stated aim of destroying Hamas. The military has said Rafah is Hamas’ last major stronghold and ground forces must target four battalions remaining there.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said an Israeli ground assault on Rafah would be “a mistake” and unnecessary in defeating Hamas.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby insisted U.S. officials have tried not to instruct Netanyahu how to carry out the conflict. He said a planned U.S.-Israel summit in Washington this coming week will include a discussion of “alternative options” for trying to get at what Israeli officials contend are Hamas leaders and operatives hiding in Rafah.

Fighting raged Saturday around Gaza’s largest hospital. Israel’s military says it has killed more than 170 terrorists in Shifa hospital since its raid began Monday, and the commanding officer of the Southern Command, Yaron Finkelman, on Friday said “we will finish this operation only when the last terrorist is in our hands.”

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