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Nearly seven months after 7 October, the situation for people in Gaza is worsening by the day.

I have called consistently for a humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and a massive surge in humanitarian aid.

Unfortunately, that has not happened – yet.

But negotiations are once again underway.

For the sake of the people of Gaza, for the sake of the hostages and their families in Israel, and for the sake of the region and the wider world, I strongly encourage the government of Israel and the Hamas leadership to reach now an agreement.

Without that, I fear the war, with all its consequences both in Gaza and across the region, will worsen exponentially.

Recent weeks have seen airstrikes on the Rafah area.

A military assault on Rafah would be an unbearable escalation, killing thousands more civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee.

It would have a devastating impact on Palestinians in Gaza, with serious repercussions on the occupied West Bank, and across the wider region.

All members of the Security Council, and many other governments, have clearly expressed their opposition to such an operation. I appeal for all those with influence over Israel to do everything in their power to prevent it.

More than 1.2 million people are now seeking shelter in Rafah governorate, most of them fleeing the Israeli bombardment that has reportedly killed over 34,000 people. They have very little to eat, hardly any access to medical care, little shelter, and nowhere safe to go.

In northern Gaza, the most vulnerable – from sick children to people with disabilities – are already dying of hunger and disease.

We must do everything possible to avert an entirely preventable, human-made famine.

We have seen incremental progress recently, but much more is urgently needed — including the promised opening of two crossing points between Israel and northern Gaza, so that aid can be brought into Gaza from Ashdod port and Jordan.

Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected – and they must be able to receive the essentials they need to survive, including food, shelter, and health care.

A major obstacle to distributing aid across Gaza is the lack of security for humanitarians and the people we serve. Humanitarian convoys, facilities and personnel, and the people in need, must not be targets.

We welcome aid delivery by air and sea, but there is no alternative to the massive use of land routes.

I again call on the Israeli authorities to allow and facilitate safe, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian workers, including UNRWA, throughout Gaza.

Dear members of the media,

The health system in Gaza has been decimated by the war. Two-thirds of hospitals and health centres are out of action; many of those that remain are seriously damaged.

Some hospitals now resemble cemeteries.

I am deeply alarmed by reports that mass graves have been discovered in several locations in Gaza, including Al Shifa Medical Complex and Nasser Medical Complex.

In Nasser alone, over 390 bodies have reportedly been exhumed.

There are competing narratives around several of these mass graves, including serious allegations that some of those buried were unlawfully killed.

It is imperative that independent international investigators, with forensic expertise, are allowed immediate access to the sites of these mass graves, to establish the precise circumstances under which hundreds of Palestinians lost their lives and were buried, or reburied.  

The families of the dead and missing have a right to know what happened. And the world has a right to accountability for any violations of international law that may have taken place.

Hospitals, health workers, patients and all civilians must be protected and the human rights of all must be respected.  

Dear members of the media,

I would like to conclude with a few words about UNRWA.

We recognize the irreplaceable and indispensable work of UNRWA to support millions of people in Gaza, the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Following the report by Ms. Catherine Colonna on mechanisms and procedures to ensure UNRWA’s adherence to the humanitarian principle of neutrality, an action plan is being put in place to implement the recommendations of the report.

I appeal to donors, host countries and staff to cooperate with this effort.

Most countries have suspended contributions to UNRWA but many of them have resumed them. We are optimistic that others will join. And some Member States are giving to UNRWA for the first time and the generosity of private donors around the world is also heartening and unprecedented. But we still have a funding gap.

I call on Member States, both traditional and new donors, to pledge funds generously to ensure the continuity of the agency’s operations.

UNRWA’s presence across the region is a source of hope and stability. Its education, healthcare and other services provide a sense of normality, safety and stability to desperate communities.

Dear members of the media,

This is the moment to reaffirm our hope for, and contributions to, a two-state solution — the only sustainable path to peace and security for Israelis, Palestinians, and the wider region.

The United Nations is totally committed to supporting a pathway to peace, based on an end to the occupation and the establishment of a fully independent, democratic, viable, contiguous, and sovereign Palestinian State, with Gaza as an integral part.

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