08 Dec 2023, 22:14

Hamas brutality can't justify 'collective punishment' of Palestinians: UN chief

    UNITED NATIONS, United States, Dec  8, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - UN

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Hamas brutality could
never justify "collective punishment" of Palestinians as Israel presses its
campaign against Hamas in the Gaza strip.

       Guterres convened an emergency meeting of the organization's Security
Council after weeks of fighting left over 17,170 people dead in Gaza, mostly
women and children, according to the latest toll from the health ministry in
Hamas-run Gaza.

       "Some 130 hostages are still held captive. I call for their immediate and
unconditional release, as well as their humane treatment and visits from the
International Committee of the Red Cross until they are freed," Guterres said.

       "At the same time, the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the
collective punishment of the Palestinian people."

       Vowing to destroy the Islamist movement, Israel has relentlessly bombarded
Gaza and sent in tanks and ground troops since the war began on October 7 with
unprecedented attacks by Hamas on southern Israel. Hamas militants killed about
1,200 people and took hostages, 138 of whom remain captive, Israel says.

       "I unreservedly condemn those attacks. I am appalled by the reports of
sexual violence," Guterres said.

       "There is no possible justification for deliberately killing some 1,200
people, including 33 children, injuring thousands more, and taking hundreds of

       Guterres deployed rarely-used Article 99 of the UN Charter to bring to the
council's attention "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the
maintenance of international peace and security".

       No one in his job had done this in decades.

       Guterres is seeking a "humanitarian ceasefire" to prevent "a catastrophe
with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians" and the entire
Middle East.
       - 'Laws of war' -
       After Guterres sent his urgent letter, the United Arab Emirates prepared a
draft resolution that will be put to a vote on Friday, said the delegation from
Ecuador, which chairs the council this month and thus decides on scheduling
       The latest version of this document seen Thursday by AFP calls the
humanitarian situation in Gaza "catastrophic" and "demands an immediate
humanitarian ceasefire."

       The Security Council is due to vote on this Arab-proposed ceasefire plan
later in the day, with several other previous attempts at brokering a ceasefire
having been vetoed.

       The short text also calls for the protection of civilians, the immediate
and unconditional release of all the hostages Hamas is still holding, and
humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

       Washington, Israel's closest ally on the world stage, has said that a new
resolution would not be "useful" at this stage.

       Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to a wasteland. The UN says about 80
percent of the population has been displaced, facing shortages of food, fuel,
water and medicine, along with the threat of disease.

       "International humanitarian law includes the duty to protect civilians and
to comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution,"
Guterres said, calling for an immediate ceasefire.

       "The laws of war also demand that civilians' essential needs must be met,
including by facilitating the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian relief," he

       On Friday, the health ministry reported another 40 dead in strikes near
Gaza City, and dozens more in Jabalia and Khan Yunis.

       The military told residents of the Jabalia, Shejaiya and Zeitun districts
of Gaza City to move west.

       The death toll also rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli
forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory's health ministry