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UN agency calls for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war: ‘Matter of life and death for millions’

The head of a United Nations agency said during an emergency meeting Monday that “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire has become a matter of life and death for millions.”

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), warned against additional fighting in Gaza, where Israeli forces are launching a ground invasion to eliminate Hamas, which governs the territory.

Lazzarini warned Israel against the “collective punishment” of Palestinians and said a further breakdown of civil order following the looting of the agency’s warehouses by Palestinians searching for food and other aid “will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the largest U.N. agency in Gaza to continue operating.”

Lazzarini, flanked by the head of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and a senior U.N. humanitarian official, provided briefings to the Security Council, where the officials painted a dire picture of the humanitarian situation in Gaza after more than a million people have been displaced. The meeting comes 23 days after Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks in Israel that killed over 1,400 people.

 

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, also urged the Security Council to follow the General Assembly, demanding “an end to this bloodshed, which constitutes an affront to humanity, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and a clear and imminent danger for regional and international peace and security.”

The council meeting comes as Israel’s Netanyahu opposed a ceasefire.

“Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen,” Netanyahu said on Monday.

He added: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war. A war for our common future. Today we draw a line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism. It is a time for everyone to decide where they stand. Israel will stand against the forces of barbarism until victory. I hope and pray that civilized nations everywhere will back this fight.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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