Updated: Palestine-Israel Conflict: We are witnessing killing of civilians that is unparalled, unprecedented in any conflict – Antonio Guterres

Updated with additional information.

NEW YORK, Nov 20: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said thousands of children have been killed within weeks in the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict and that the world was witnessing the killing of civilians that is unparalled and unprecedented in any conflict he has seen since becoming the UN Sec Gen.

“We report every year on children killed in armed conflict….The highest number of children killed in one year by one actor was by the Taliban in 2017, 2018. The second by the Syrian Government and its allies in again before 2020 and again it was around 700.  We have had Russia last year 350.  We had Saudi Arabia.  If you remember the uproar in relation to Yemen.  In one year, the maximum 300. 

“Now without entering into discussing the accuracy of the numbers that were published by the de facto authorities in Gaza, what is clear is that we have had in a few weeks thousands of children killed. So this is what matters.”

He was speaking at a virtual press conference in conjunction with the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s 2023 Emissions Gap Report.

Responding to questions on the conflict, and UN’s role after the war, he said a UN protectorate in Gaza would not be enough and that it would require a multi-stake approach involving the Arab countries, the US towards establishing a two-state solution ultimately.

He said the UN had been insisting on the need for a humanitarian ceasefire, on unrestricted access for humanitarian aid, on the liberation of hostages and on the need to end the violations of international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.   

“I think it is also important to be able to transform this tragedy into an opportunity. And for that to be possible, it is essential that after the war we move in a determined and irreversible way to a two-state solution. 

“I believe it will be important to have a strengthened Palestinian Authority assuming responsibilities in Gaza.  I understand that the Palestinian Authority cannot come with Israeli tanks in Gaza which means that the international community needs to move into a transition period.  I do not think that a UN protectorate in Gaza is a solution.  I think we need a multi-stakeholder approach in which different countries, different entities, will cooperate. 

“For Israel, of course, the US is the main guarantor of its security.  For Palestinians, the neighbouring and Arab countries of the region are essential.  So everybody needs to come together to make the conditions for a transition, allowing for the Palestinian Authority, a strengthened Palestinian Authority, to assume responsibility in Gaza and then, based on that, to finally move, as I said, in a determined and irreversible way to a two-state solution based on the principles that have been largely established by the international community and which I have time and time again outlined.”

To another question that his call for a ceasefire in Gaza had gone unheeded, and that while he had expressed shock over the bombing of UN shelters and schools over the weekend, “why not call it out.”

Guterres said he had been very clear in denouncing the violations of international humanitarian laws, the violation of the protection of civilians.