U.N. secretary-general calls for immediate cease-fire at Rafah border crossing

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres holds a press conference at the border gate between Egypt and Gaza, in Rafah, Egypt, on Saturday, where he called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. Photo by Khaled Elfiqi/EPA-EFE
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March 23 (UPI) -- United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza during a trip to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing.

Guterres spoke after inspecting the crossing, where Palestinian refugees have fled amid Israel's military campaign of Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, which killed around 1,200 people.

"Nothing justifies the horrific attacks by Hamas on October 7th," Guterres said. "And nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Now more than ever, it is time for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. It is time to silence the guns."

Earlier Saturday, Guterres visited Palestinians at a hospital in al-Arish, Egypt, who were injured during the fighting in Gaza.

He said he was "extremely moved by their stories, experiences and all the hardships they have endured," while calling for an "ironclad commitment" by Israel to open "total, unfettered" access for humanitarian aid to reach people in Gaza.

The Israeli government has argued it is putting not limits on the amount of aid entering Gaza and that it is doing all it can to facilitate the flow of food and medical supplies.

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a United States-led resolution at the United Nations Security Council to pressure Israel into a cease-fire.

The two countries argued the resolution, which included a condemnation of the Hamas attacks, was took weak.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday made an unscheduled visit to Tel Aviv to push Israel into a deal that would return Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz fired back at Guterres' remarks in a post on X. Under Guterres' leadership, he said, the United Nations "has become an antisemitic and anti-Israeli body that shelters and emboldens terror."

"The U.N. Secretary-General @antonioguterres, stood today on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing and blamed Israel for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, without condemning in any way the Hamas-ISIS terrorists who plunder humanitarian aid, without condemning @UNRWA that cooperates with terrorists - and without calling for the immediate, unconditional release of all Israeli hostages," the post read.

The death toll in Gaza has broken 30,000, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health. More than 1 million Palestinians have fled to Rafah to avoid the fighting in the Gaza strip.