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Why UN Chief Questions Gaza’s Rising Death Toll

The Gaza Strip, a small coastal enclave in the Middle East, has been a longstanding hotspot of conflict and suffering. The region has seen a tragic rise in civilian casualties, prompting United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to declare that there is something "clearly wrong" with Israel's military operations against Hamas Palestinian militants.

Gaza's troubled history is marked by decades of conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups, primarily Hamas. The core issues, including land disputes, borders, refugees, and national identity, have perpetuated this enduring conflict. This has resulted in several military confrontations, with the most recent spate of violence sparked by an October 7 attack by Hamas militants, which led to Israel's vow to eliminate the group. The situation escalated with Israeli airstrikes, a blockade, and a ground invasion.

Frequent military confrontations have brought about indiscriminate airstrikes and ground operations, leading to civilian casualties and placing innocent lives at risk. Gaza's healthcare system is severely affected by a lack of medical supplies, equipment, and qualified medical personnel. This has impeded the capacity to save lives, especially during times of conflict.

The conflict has resulted in the destruction of vital infrastructure, including homes, schools, and hospitals, making daily life even more challenging for the survivors. Gaza's population is trapped in a cycle of economic hardship, unemployment, and poverty due to the ongoing conflict. Families struggle to access basic necessities, including food and medical care.

Guterres has questioned the approach of Israel's military operations. He emphasized the importance of distinguishing between the actions of Hamas and the plight of the Palestinian people. While condemning the Hamas attack on Israel, Guterres underscored the need for humanity to preserve its meaning by safeguarding innocent lives.

Guterres compared the number of children killed in Gaza to the toll in conflicts worldwide that he reports on annually to the UN Security Council. He stated that Gaza was becoming "a graveyard for children," with a disproportionate number of child casualties. This alarming trend highlights the need for a re-evaluation of military strategies and the protection of civilians.

Looking beyond the immediate crisis, Guterres outlined a "best-case scenario" involving a re-invigorated Palestinian Authority assuming political control in Gaza. This would require negotiations with both the Palestinians and Israel. Guterres emphasized that it is "premature" to discuss the possibility of a future UN peacekeeping force but highlighted the role of the UN, relevant countries in the region, and the United States in facilitating a serious negotiation for a two-state solution.


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