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Jordan summit presses Gaza aid and ceasefire

AFP
Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024

SWEIMEH, Jordan: Leaders at an emergency summit on Gaza’s humanitarian crisis pleaded on Tuesday for greater aid access into the war-ravaged territory and backed a US-proposed ceasefire as the only long-term solution.

Jordan invited leaders from around the world to its Dead Sea coast for urgent talks as aid groups warn that conditions are worse than ever in Gaza, with virtually the whole population of more than two million people relying on sporadic aid deliveries.

“The horror must stop,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the conference.

“The speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza is beyond anything in my years as secretary-general,” he said.

UN humanitarian coordination Martin Griffiths described the Gaza war as a “stain on our humanity” and appealed for $2.5 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Gazans from April until December.

Guterres voiced his backing for a ceasefire plan put forth by US President Joe Biden, under which Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centres and Hamas would free hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to the Jordan conference from Israel where he made his latest push for the deal, insisting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was on board and that it was up to Hamas to agree.

But Blinken and others have said that there was no time to waste on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of the risk of famine.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, an outspoken critic of Israel’s military operation, announced that his government would offer another 16 million euros ($17 million) in assistance.

Sanchez said that people around the world were looking to leaders to achieve “concrete results and actions to stop the suffering in Gaza”.

He praised the US diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, saying that “now we call on Hamas and Israel to act in a responsible manner and seize the new opportunity in front of us”.

The incoming leader of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Prabowo Subianto, also travelled to the conference in Jordan and renewed offers to help.

He said Indonesia was ready to send medical teams, a field hospital and a hospital ship as well as to evacuate 1,000 people for medical treatment.

“Although we are willing to support and contribute to all these efforts, the final solution to this problem is a two-state solution,” Prabowo said.

Much of Gaza has been reduced to rubble and nearly all of its 2.4 million people displaced by the war that began on October 7 with Hamas’s attack on southern Israel.

Despite major initiatives including a specially built US pier, aid to Gaza remains severely restricted, particularly since the closure in May of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt—the main conduit for humanitarian and fuel deliveries—after Israeli troops seized the Palestinian side from Hamas.

Guterres on Tuesday said that since the closure of the border, “the flow of critical humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza—which was already woefully inadequate—has plummeted by two-thirds”.

He estimated that more than 50,000 children required treatment for acute malnutrition.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the co-hosts of the summit, also backed the calls for a ceasefire.

Sisi blamed the humanitarian crisis on Israel, saying it was “manufactured” and accusing Israel of using hunger as a weapon of war. Israel denies the accusations and has put the onus on Egypt to reopen Rafah.