Guterres condemns Gaza hospital blast, calls for humanitarian ceasefire
A massive explosion at a Gaza hospital led to hundreds of casualties, raising humanitarian concerns due to Israel's restrictions on food, fuel, and electricity
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday condemned the deadly Gaza hospital blast and called for a humanitarian ceasefire in the region as the Israel-Hamas conflict continued to rage.
Addressing the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the UN chief said: "I am fully aware of the deep grievances of the Palestinian people after 56 years of occupation, but as serious as these grievances are, they cannot justify the acts of terror against civilians committed by Hamas on October 7 that I immediately condemned.
"But those attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."
Guterres also emphasised that hospitals along with clinics, medical personnel, and UN premises are protected under international law, according to a statement from UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
In a tweet shortly after the blast at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital on Tuesday, the UN chief said in a post on X that "his heart is with the families of those who died", Xinhua news agency reported.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the hospital was sheltering thousands of displaced people when it was attacked.
The World Health Organization said the facility was operational, with patients, health and caregivers, and internally displaced people sheltering there.
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It was one of 20 hospitals in the north of the Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders from the Israeli military.
Palestine has accused the Israeli military of launching an airstrike on the hospital.
But the Israeli Defense Forces said that based on their intelligence data, the damage was caused by rockets launched by Islamic Jihad militants towards Israel that had gone astray.
Displaced civilians were reportedly seeking shelter at the hospital, following Israel's order to evacuate to the south in advance of what is expected to be a ground assault.
Gaza has a population of roughly 2 million and the crisis has displaced some 600,000 people, many of whom have sought safety in hospitals which are already overwhelmed with rising casualties and deaths.
The UN said that essential supplies such as food, water, and vital health medications are depleting in Gaza.
Out of 35 hospitals, four are inoperable because of significant damage and direct targeting.