"UN Chief Condemns Gaza Attacks as Israel Defies Calls for Ceasefire Amidst Escalating Humanitarian Crisis"

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to express deep concern and condemnation over Israel's ongoing attacks on civilians in Gaza, particularly the recent strikes on two UNRWA schools within a 24-hour period. In a statement released on November 19, Guterres voiced shock at the loss of life, especially among women and children seeking refuge in United Nations facilities as the conflict in Gaza intensifies.

As hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians seek shelter in UN facilities, Guterres emphasized the inviolability of UN premises and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Despite his pleas, Israel remains defiant, continuing its military operations, prompting Guterres to reiterate his deep appreciation for mediation efforts led by the government of Qatar.

The situation in Gaza has garnered international attention, with The New York Times featuring a front-page lead story titled "Smoldering Gaza a Graveyard for Children" on November 19. The report highlighted the devastating toll of Israeli firepower on Palestinian children, with over 5,000 children killed and possibly hundreds more. Yassir Abu Amar, the Director of the morgue at Al Aqsa hospital, described the heart-wrenching scenes of children's bodies arriving broken and in pieces.

Guterres underscored the alarming statistics, revealing that approximately 41 percent of those killed are children, and 25 percent are women. The Secretary-General painted a grim picture of Gaza, where one child is killed and two are injured every 10 minutes during the war, turning the region into what he termed a "graveyard for children."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, echoed Guterres's sentiments in a powerful statement on November 19, denouncing the events in Gaza as "horrendous." He emphasized the violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by targeting schools turned shelters, the displacement of hundreds of thousands, and the continued attacks on facilities hosting displaced Palestinians.

The situation remains dire, with disturbing images from reported Israeli strikes on Al Fakhoura School depicting the severe toll on civilians, including women and children. At least three other schools housing displaced Palestinians have also come under attack in the past 48 hours, further exacerbating the already devastating humanitarian crisis.

"UN Condemns Israeli Military Operations in Gaza as Humanitarian Crisis Escalates"

As Israeli military operations persist in and around Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, has raised grave concerns over what UN colleagues on-site described as a "death zone." Medical personnel, patients, and civilians have been ordered to evacuate the hospital by the Israeli military, prompting hundreds to flee on foot, risking their lives amid the ongoing conflict.

Turk highlighted the dire situation facing those in Gaza, emphasizing the lack of safe havens and the challenge of ensuring civilians' safety. In Khan Younis, leaflets dropped by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) instruct residents to go to unspecified "recognized shelters" while strikes continue across the region. Displaced Palestinians, already struggling due to severe restrictions on life-saving assistance, face worsening conditions in overcrowded and unsafe spaces.

The High Commissioner stressed Israel's obligation to protect civilians under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), emphasizing the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions in carrying out attacks. He warned that failure to adhere to these rules could constitute war crimes.

Turk expressed deep concern about the visible suffering of children, women, and men, questioning how much more violence and bloodshed the situation would endure before a resolution is reached. Urging an immediate ceasefire on humanitarian and human rights grounds, he emphasized that humanity must come first.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the 103 UN staffers killed in Gaza, marking the largest loss during a conflict in the organization's 78-year history. The fallen colleagues, primarily working for the UN agency UNRWA, provided life-saving aid to Gaza's 2.2 million people amidst constant bombardment and a complete siege of the enclave. The casualties included school principals, teachers, health workers, engineers, support staff, and a psychologist, emphasizing the devastating toll on those delivering vital assistance amid the ongoing crisis.

"UNRWA Continues Vital Operations in Gaza Amidst Devastating Humanitarian Crisis"

Amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, Tom White, the Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, emphasized the importance of keeping the UN flag flying high as a symbol of continued service to the people of Gaza. Despite the UN's global lowering of flags to mourn the loss of 103 UN staffers in Gaza, the agency's dedication to providing assistance remains unwavering.

Speaking from Rafah near the border crossing with Egypt, White highlighted the limited passage of trucks carrying essential supplies and fuel into Gaza through the border crossing. Some severely wounded children have been evacuated to Egypt, with a few transported to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for further medical treatment.

However, a group of UN experts raised alarming statistics last week, reporting that the bombardment and siege of Gaza since October 7, 2023, have resulted in over 11,000 deaths, more than 27,000 injuries, and the displacement of 1.6 million people. The toll includes casualties among medics, UN staffers, journalists, frontline and human rights defenders, with dozens of families spanning five generations wiped out.

The experts also expressed concern about the escalation of violence against Palestinians in the Israeli-Occupied West Bank, where at least 190 Palestinians have been killed, over 2,700 injured, and more than 1,100 displaced since October 7, 2023. US President Joe Biden has warned Israeli extremists in the West Bank against attacking Palestinians.

A statement from the group of UN experts on November 16 pointed to grave violations committed by Israel, indicating a "genocide in the making." The statement cited evidence of increasing genocidal incitement, an overt intent to destroy the Palestinian people under occupation, calls for a 'second Nakba' in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the use of powerful weaponry causing a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure.

"Experts Sound Alarm on Gaza Genocide Risk, While UN Secretary-General Adopts Cautious Stance"

A group of United Nations experts has expressed deep concern about the heightened risk of genocide in Gaza, emphasizing their previous warnings and calling out the failure of governments to achieve an immediate ceasefire. The experts expressed profound worry about certain governments' support for Israel's strategy of warfare against the besieged population of Gaza and the international system's failure to mobilize effectively to prevent genocide.

The statement highlighted Israel's tightening of its 16-year unlawful blockade of Gaza, preventing people from escaping and leaving them without essential resources such as food, water, medicine, and fuel for weeks. The intentional starvation caused by the blockade is deemed a war crime, according to the experts.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, known for his forthright comments on civilian killings in Gaza, has taken a more cautious approach. In response to the experts' statement on genocide, Guterres's spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, asserted the UN's position that only a competent court can label an event as "genocide." The focus remains on respecting International Humanitarian Law (IHL), protecting civilians, ensuring greater humanitarian access, and advocating for a humanitarian ceasefire.

Dujarric underscored the independence of the experts from the Secretary-General and refrained from commenting on the credibility of their work. While acknowledging the importance of independent human rights experts within the UN's human rights architecture, he maintained that it is not the Secretary-General's role to grade their work. The cautious stance reflects the complexities surrounding the ongoing conflict and the diplomatic challenges faced by the UN in addressing the situation in Gaza.

In conclusion, the stark contrast in perspectives between United Nations (UN) experts and UN Secretary-General António Guterres regarding the situation in Gaza underscores the complexities and challenges faced by the international community in responding to the ongoing conflict. While the UN experts have sounded a grave alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza, expressing deep concern over the failure of governments to achieve an immediate ceasefire and the support for Israel's strategy, Secretary-General Guterres has adopted a more cautious stance.

Guterres, through his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, emphasized the UN's position that the label of "genocide" can only be determined by a competent court. The Secretary-General's focus remains on upholding International Humanitarian Law (IHL), protecting civilians, ensuring humanitarian access, and advocating for a ceasefire.

The divergence in perspectives reflects the challenges of navigating diplomatic intricacies and the independent nature of human rights experts within the UN. The conclusion leaves the situation in Gaza hanging in a delicate balance, with the international community grappling with the urgency of addressing the humanitarian crisis while navigating the complexities of diplomatic responses to the ongoing conflict.