Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi convened leaders from the region and around the world in efforts to de-escalate hostilities following the Hamas incursion into Israel on 7 October, and Israel’s bombing of Gaza and complete siege of the enclave.
The Summit took place one day after the UN chief travelled to the Rafah border crossing in Egypt’s north Sinai, the sole border crossing open with Gaza.
“There I saw a paradox — a humanitarian catastrophe playing out in real time,” he said.
Mr. Guterres noted that hundreds of trucks “teeming with food and other essential supplies” were on the Egyptian side while across the border, two million people in Gaza were going without water, food, fuel, electricity and medicine.
On Saturday, a convoy carrying desperately needed items crossed into Gaza.
UN working nonstop
“Those trucks need to move as quickly as possible in a massive, sustained and safe way from Egypt into Gaza,” said Mr. Guterres, adding that the UN is working nonstop with all parties towards a continuous delivery of aid at the scale that is needed.
The Secretary-General stressed that the near-term goals must be clear, repeating his call for immediate, unrestricted and sustained humanitarian aid to Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages by Hamas, and a humanitarian ceasefire now.
He said that the grievances of the Palestinian people are legitimate and long, but nothing can justify the reprehensible assault by Hamas that terrorized Israeli civilians. At the same time, these abhorrent attacks can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
Time for action
He emphasised the need to uphold international humanitarian law, which includes protecting civilians and not attacking hospitals, schools and UN premises currently sheltering half a million people.
He also called for not losing sight of “the only realistic foundation for a true peace and stability”, namely a two-State solution for Israelis and Palestinians.
“The time has come for action,” he said. “Action to end this godawful nightmare.
Action to build a future worthy of the dreams of the children of Palestine, Israel, the region and our world.”
Release all hostages
Also on Saturday, the UN chief expressed gratitude for the assistance of the Emir of Qatar for his efforts to secure the release of two Americans who had been held hostage in Gaza, his Spokesperson said in a statement.
Mr. Guterres renewed his call for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and again appealed for unhindered and sustained humanitarian access in Gaza, full respect for international law and the protection of civilians, and international action to avoid the conflict from expanding to the wider region.
UN political engagement
Following the Cairo Summit, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process issued a statement commending Egypt for convening the event.
“Alongside the Secretary-General, today we continued the United Nations’ political engagements with relevant parties in the region and beyond to bring an end to the bloodshed and prevent further loss of civilian lives,” said Tor Wennesland.
The envoy took note of the shared concerns about the risk of the conflict spilling over and welcomed the many calls for a political solution as the way forward.
Aid convoy ‘an important step’
He also thanked the Egyptian authorities for facilitating the entry that morning of the first aid convoy into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, calling it “an important step that must not be the last.”
“Aid needs to flow safely and continuously going forward,” he said. “It is a war zone in Gaza and the needs are immense. All of us can and must do more to save lives now.”
Mr. Wennesland also reiterated the Secretary-General’s urgent appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.