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U.N. chief Antonio Guterres once again calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres visits the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Saturday, March 23, 2024.   -  
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Amr Nabil/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stood near a long line of waiting trucks Saturday and declared starvation inside Gaza a “moral outrage.”

He called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

He spoke on the Egyptian side of the border not far from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israel plans to launch a ground assault despite widespread warnings of a potential disaster.

More than half of Gaza's population has taken refuge there.

“Any further onslaught will make things even worse — worse for Palestinian civilians, worse for hostages and worse for all people in the region," Guterres said.

He spoke a day after the U.N. Security Council failed to reach consensus on the wording of a resolution supporting “an immediate and sustained cease-fire.”

Guterres repeatedly noted the difficulties of getting aid into Gaza, for which international aid agencies have largely blamed Israel.

“Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness … a long line of blocked red relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other,” he said.

Hamas is believed to be holding some 100 hostages as well as the remains of 30 others taken in its Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and sparked the war.

An estimated 1.5 million Palestinians now shelter in Rafah.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said an Israeli ground assault on Rafah would be “a mistake” and unnecessary in defeating Hamas.

That marked a shift in the position for the United States, whose officials have concluded there is no credible way for getting sheltering civilians out of harm’s way.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press forward with military-approved plans for the offensive, which he has said is crucial to achieving the stated aim of destroying Hamas.

The military has said Rafah is Hamas’ last major stronghold and ground forces must target four battalions remaining there.

Israel’s invasion has killed more than 32,000 people, according to Gaza health officials, while leaving much of the enclave in ruins and displacing some 80% of the enclave's 2.3 million people.