UN Secretary-General António Guterres has described a strike on an ambulance convoy outside a hospital in the Gaza Strip as horrific, reiterating his appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire.
The ambulances evacuating critically injured and sick patients to Al Shifa Hospital in the south of the Gaza Strip were struck at the entrance of the hospital on Friday, according to reports.
“I am horrified by the reported attack in Gaza on an ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa Hospital. The images of bodies strewn on the street outside the hospital are harrowing,” Guterres said in a statement.
He stated that he did not forget the terror attacks committed in Israel by Hamas and the killing, maiming and abductions, including of women and children.
He stressed that all hostages held in Gaza must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Guterres added that for nearly one month, civilians in Gaza, including children and women, have been besieged, denied aid, killed and bombed out of their homes.
“This must stop,” he stressed.
Guterres further noted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is “horrific”.
“Not nearly enough food, water and medicine are coming in to meet people’s needs. Fuel to power hospitals and water plants is running out,” he said, noting that shelters by the UN agency assisting Palestine refugees (UNRWA) were at nearly four times their full capacity “and are being hit in bombardments”.
“Morgues are overflowing. Shops are empty. The sanitation situation is abysmal. We are seeing an increase in diseases and respiratory illnesses, especially among children. An entire population is traumatised. Nowhere is safe.”
Renewing his appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire, the secretary-general underscored that international humanitarian law must be respected.
“Civilians and civilian infrastructure, including humanitarian and medical workers and assets must be protected. Civilians must also not be used as human shields,” he said.
The UN chief also urged that essential supplies and services, and unimpeded humanitarian access must be safely allowed into and across Gaza “at a scale commensurate with this dramatic situation”.
The UN chief underscored that “all those with influence must exert it to ensure respect for the rules of war, end the suffering and avoid a spillover of the conflict that could engulf the whole region.”
Similarly, Director-General of World Health Organisation Tedros Ghebreyesus, said he was “utterly shocked” by the strike on the ambulances.
“Utterly shocked by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients close to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, leading to deaths, injuries and damage,” Ghebreyesus said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“We reiterate: patients, health workers, facilities, and ambulances must be protected at all times, always,” he stressed.
In a separate statement, the agency also said that attacks on healthcare, including the targeting of hospitals and restricting the delivery of essential aid such as medical supplies, fuel, and water, may amount to violations of international humanitarian law.
“WHO reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire, emphasizing the urgent need to protect all health workers, patients, health transport, and health facilities.’’