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World

World’s largest humanitarian network calls for Gaza ceasefire

Published May 29, 2024
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) President Kate Forbes poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters in Manila, Philippines, May 29, 2024. Photo: Reuters
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) President Kate Forbes poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters in Manila, Philippines, May 29, 2024. Photo: Reuters

MANILA: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called on Wednesday for a ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip, where millions of people face worsening hunger.

The war-torn enclave is suffering from a humanitarian catastrophe nearly seven months after Israel launched a devastating offensive in response to the October 7 Hamas-led attacks that killed 1,200 people in Israel.

Israeli tanks hit evacuation zone west of Rafah, 21 dead, Gaza health officials say

“We desperately need a political solution that will allow us to have a ceasefire to get aid in,” IFRC President Kate Forbes told Reuters in an interview in the capital, Manila.

“We’re ready to make a difference. We have to have access, and to have access there has to have a ceasefire,” said Forbes, who in December became the second woman to ever hold the top job at the world’s largest humanitarian network.

The IFRC president is a volunteer position and oversees a network that unites 191 organisations working during and after disasters and wars, such as the Palestine Red Crescent Society, which has ambulance crews in Gaza.

Forbes said she had seen the “atrocious” situation in Rafah during a visit in February, months before Israel launched a military assault on the southern Gaza city, which had been sheltering more than a million Palestinians who fled assaults on other parts of the enclave.

“There was no not enough housing. There was no water, there weren’t enough sanitation toilets. We had a hospital with no equipment and unfortunately what I was afraid of has happened, and that there wasn’t going to be enough food,” Forbes said.

Prospects for a resumption of mediated Gaza ceasefire talks grew over the weekend, even as Israel pressed on with its offensive in Gaza to eliminate the Palestinian group Hamas after the top United Nations court ordered Israel on Friday to stop attacking Rafah.

Algeria proposes UN action to ‘stop killing in Rafah’

Hamas has denied reports that talks would resume earlier this week. Both sides have blamed the other for the deadlock.

Israel has said it cannot accept Hamas’ demand to end the war, while the Palestinians want Palestinian prisoners to be released.

“I plead with the governments on all sides to negotiate a ceasefire so that we can get aid in,” Forbes said.

“My job is to ensure that when it (ceasefire) happens, we can give the aid that’s necessary.

And so they need to do their jobs so I can do my job,“ she added.

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