“Hamas violates principles when it uses (civilians as) human shields. But when one looks at the number of civilians who were killed as a result (Israeli) military operations, it is clear that something is wrong,” Guterres told the Reuters NEXT conference.
Israel has vowed to completely destroy Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, in response to its brutal October 7 attack. At that time, Hamas militants crossed the border and killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel.
They then dragged more than 240 people to Gaza as hostages. Retaliatory Israeli strikes in the past month have claimed 10,569 lives, roughly 40 percent of them children, according to the Palestinian Authority, which controls Hamas in Gaza.
“It is also important that Israel understands that it is against its interests when every day we see the terrible picture of the dramatic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people,” Guterres said.
“This does not help Israel in relation to global public opinion.” Although the head of the UN strongly condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel, he also said that “a distinction must be made – Hamas is one thing and the Palestinian people are another.”
Guterres also compared the number of children allegedly killed in Gaza to the number of child victims of conflicts around the world, which he reports annually to the UN Security Council. He already declared on Monday that Gaza is becoming a “cemetery for children”.
“Every year, the number of children killed by some of the actors in all the conflicts we witness is in the hundreds at most,” Guterres said. “We have thousands and thousands of children killed in Gaza in a matter of days, and that also means that there is clearly something wrong with the way the military operations are being conducted,” he added.
The situation in Gaza is catastrophic
The UN Report on Child Victims of Armed Conflict lists its actors with the aim of prompting them to take measures to protect children. However, the list is highly controversial and, according to diplomats, Israel has exerted pressure in recent years not to appear on it, Reuters wrote.
This June, Guterres listed Russian armed forces after the United Nations verified that they killed 136 children in Ukraine in 2022. The next UN report on Ukraine is due in mid-2024.
The head of the UN repeatedly calls on Israel to declare a ceasefire, which would allow the necessary volume of humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza. He also said that 92 UNRWA staff had already lost their lives.
As for what will happen in Gaza after the fighting ends, Guterres outlined the “best possible scenario” – namely that a restored Palestinian Authority would be able to take political control. He admitted that a transitional period would nevertheless need to be negotiated with the Palestinians and Israel. He then called it “premature” to talk about possible UN peacekeeping units in the future.
“Several entities can play a role. The UN can play a role. Several countries that are relevant in the region can play a role. The United States can also play a role,” Guterres said.
He added that all of this should, of course, be the starting point for “serious negotiations on a two-state solution”, when a Palestinian state will exist alongside Israel.