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UN chief calls for lifting of Gaza blockade in face of humanitarian crisis

UN chief Antonio Guterres also held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a visit to a UN School in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 30 August (AFP)

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for the blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted Wednesday as he visited the Palestinian enclave enduring "one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises" he had seen.

"I am deeply moved to be in Gaza today, unfortunately to witness one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I've seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations," Guterres said.

He later said it was "important to open the closures," in a reference to Israel's decade-long blockade of Gaza and to the border with Egypt that has remained largely closed in recent years.

Guterres made the comments at a school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the enclave, from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.

The blockade also serves to isolate Hamas.

UN officials say the enclave is fast becoming unliveable, with sparse electricity and a lack of clean water.

Guterres's comments came as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday and was due to give a speech in Tel Aviv later Wednesday before departing.


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