On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cautioned that international humanitarian law should not be selectively applied, emphasizing that it is not an “a la carte menu.” He called on all parties involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law.
The UN chief said he is “deeply alarmed” by the intensifying Israel-Hamas conflict, including the expansion of ground operations and intense air strikes by the Israeli army as well as continued rocket fire towards Israel from Gaza.
“Protection of civilians on both sides is paramount and must be respected at all times,” said Guterres, in a statement.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians and has taken over 230 people – including Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as foreigners from numerous countries – as hostages back to Gaza, Israeli officials have said.
Israel has since retaliated with a constant bombardment as well as a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and killed more than 8,500 Palestinians, mostly children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, as of Tuesday.
The UN chief, while reiterating his “utter condemnation” of Hamas’ attack on Israel, called for “immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.
“I condemn the killing of civilians in Gaza and I am dismayed by reports that two-thirds of those who have been killed are women and children,” said Guterres.
‘Not a la carte menu’
The UN chief also called on all parties to abide by the “principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution” of the international humanitarian law, adding that “It is not an a la carte menu and cannot be applied selectively.”
He also reiterated his call for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and “unimpeded humanitarian access” to meet the urgent needs created by the “catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.”
“I remain deeply concerned about the risk of a dangerous escalation beyond Gaza and urge all leaders to exercise utmost restraint to avoid a wider conflagration,” said the UN chief.
Guterres also noted that the amount of humanitarian assistance that has been allowed into Gaza up till now is “completely inadequate” and not enough to meet the needs of people in the Palestinian territory “compounding the humanitarian tragedy”.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby, said on Tuesday (Oct 31) that 66 trucks of humanitarian assistance entered Gaza in the last 24 hours, adding that dozens of more trucks are expected to be cleared for deliveries at the Rafah border crossing.
The US official also acknowledged that this is “just a fraction” of how much is needed in Gaza and at some point they would reach up to 100 a day.