UN chief says Hamas attacks do not justify ‘collective punishment’ of Palestinians

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas did not justify the “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.

The Hamas attacks on October 7 “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”, Guterres told delegates at a forum of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in Beijing.

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Guterres called on Wednesday for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Speaking at a forum of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in Beijing, he reiterated what he called “two urgent humanitarian appeals”.

He called on Hamas for the “immediate and unconditional release of hostages”, referring to at least 199 people kidnapped by the militants during their October 7 offensive, the deadliest in Israel’s history.

He also called on Israel to “immediately allow unrestricted access of humanitarian aid to respond to the most basic needs of the people of Gaza, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and children”.

“I call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to provide sufficient time and space to help realise my two appeals and to ease the epic human suffering we are witnessing,” Guterres said.

“Too many lives and the fate of the entire region hang in the balance.”

The UN chief earlier said he was “horrified” by a deadly blast that ripped through a hospital in Gaza late Tuesday, killing hundreds of people.

Hamas has blamed Israel for the hospital strike. Israel has said it was caused by a rocket misfired by Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza.

“My heart is with the families of the victims. Hospitals and medical personnel are protected under international humanitarian law,” Guterres said in a post on X.

Guterres also condemned an attack on a school run by the UN in a Gaza refugee camp that killed six people.

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