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In a tradition that started when he served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to shine a light on Muslim communities in distress, Mr. Guterres arrived in Cairo on Saturday, where he reiterated his urgent calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and the cessation of violence, notably in Gaza and Sudan. His visit underscores the UN’s commitment to addressing pressing humanitarian concerns in conflict zones.

During his time in Egypt, the Secretary-General will journey to northern Sinai, a region deeply impacted by conflict. There, he met with Palestinians in El Arish, demonstrating solidarity with those affected by the violence, and with UN humanitarian workers in Rafah on the Egyptian side to discuss strategies to alleviate the suffering of those caught in the midst of conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (left) meets a Palestinian patient at a hospital in El Arish in Egypt.

UN Photo/Mark Garten

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (left) meets a Palestinian patient at a hospital in El Arish in Egypt.

Meetings with Palestinian families

Early Saturday, the UN chief met with Palestinian civilians and their families at the General Hospital in El Arish, Egypt, saying he “was extremely moved by their stories, experiences and hardships they have endured”.

At the nearby Rafah border crossing with Gaza, he told journalists that Ramadan is a time for spreading the values of compassion, community and peace. His visit comes a day after China and Russia vetoed a US-proposed draft resolution that would have had the Security Council deem it imperative to impose a ceasefire and get sorely needed aid into the enclave.

“It is monstrous that after so much suffering over so many months, Palestinians in Gaza are marking Ramadan with Israeli bombs still falling, bullets still flying artillery still pounding and humanitarian assistance still facing obstacle upon obstacle,” he said.

“Fasting with you on Ramadan, I am deeply troubled to know so many people in Gaza will not be able to have a proper iftar.”

Palestinians in Gaza – children, women, men – remain stuck in a non-stop nightmare, he said, with communities obliterated, homes demolished, entire families and generations wiped out and hunger and starvation stalking the population.

Aid delays are a ‘moral outrage’

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

“That is more than tragic; moral outrage,” he said, adding that “any further onslaught will make everything worse” for Palestinian civilians, hostages and all people of the region.

Calls for hostage release and ceasefire now

All this demonstrates that it’s more than time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for “an ironclad commitment by Israel for total, unfettered access for humanitarian goods throughout Gaza”, he said, emphasizing that in the Ramadan spirit of compassion, it’s time for the immediate release of all hostages.

He also urged all UN Member States to support the “lifesaving work led by the backbone of all Gaza relief operations, UNRWA”, the UN relief agency for Palestine refugees.

Pledging to continue working with Egypt to streamline the flow of aid, he had a message for Palestinians in Gaza: “you are not alone.”

UN staff deliver humanitarian supplies in the north of the Gaza Strip.

© UNRWA

UN staff deliver humanitarian supplies in the north of the Gaza Strip.

‘It’s time to truly flood Gaza with aid’

“People around the world are outraged by the horrors we are all witnessing in real time,” he said. “I carry the voices of the vast majority of the world who have seen enough, who have had enough and who still believe that human dignity and decency must define us as a global community.”

That is “our only hope”, he said.

“It’s time to truly flood Gaza with lifesaving aid; the choice is clear: either surge or starvation,” he said. “Let’s choose the side of help – the side of hope – and the right side of history.”

“I will not give up,” he stated, “and all of us must not give up in doing all we can for our common humanity to prevail.”

Children in Gaza hold lanterns to celebrate the advent of Ramadan.

© UNRWA

Children in Gaza hold lanterns to celebrate the advent of Ramadan.

Annual Ramadan solidarity trip

In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, Mr. Guterres will partake in a Ramadan iftar with refugees from Sudan, who have fled their homeland due to ongoing hostilities there.

He is expected to emphasize the importance of peace and stability, particularly during the sacred month of Ramadan, urging all parties to observe a cessation of hostilities.

Moreover, the Secretary-General will engage in discussions with Egyptian officials, furthering diplomatic efforts to address regional challenges and foster cooperation in conflict resolution.

Visits to UNRWA in Jordan

Following his engagements in Egypt, Mr. Guterres will proceed to Amman, Jordan, continuing his Ramadan solidarity trip. In Jordan, he will visit facilities of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which provides essential services to the population, highlighting the UN’s commitment to supporting vulnerable communities amid crises.

During his time in Amman, the Secretary-General will share in a Ramadan iftar with Palestine refugees and UN staff, underscoring the importance of compassion and unity during times of adversity.

He is also scheduled to hold meetings with Jordanian officials, reinforcing collaborative efforts to address regional challenges and promote peace and stability.

As the world grapples with ongoing conflicts and humanitarian emergencies, Secretary-General Guterres’ Ramadan solidarity trip serves as a reminder of the UN’s unwavering commitment to upholding humanitarian principles and fostering peace in the most challenging of circumstances.

More to come…



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