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Immediate ceasefire needed to avert famine in Gaza, says Welby

22 March 2024


People seek food relief in Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday

People seek food relief in Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as global concern about famine continues to mount.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, arrived in Israel on Friday morning — part of diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire and ensure greater access for aid convoys to Gaza.

Later on Friday, a US draft resolution was due to be considered by the UN Security Council. For the first time, the US is backing calls for an immediate ceasefire, although an alternative resolution, put forward by ten members of the Council, makes the case in more explicit terms.

On Thursday afternoon, in a statement, Archbishop Welby said: “The only effective solution to this catastrophic situation is an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and sustained humanitarian access for the provision of essential supplies and services to those in need.”

He outlined the imminence of famine in Gaza, referring to warnings from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (News, 22 March). “For some, it’s already too late — children are beginning to die of starvation and dehydration.

“These deaths, and the famine-like conditions in Gaza, are not the result of some unexpected natural disaster — they are human-made,” he said.

Describing Israel as “the occupying power” in Gaza, Archbishop Welby said that “all parties to a conflict must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.”

“It is unacceptable that the number of aid lorries entering Gaza in March — an average of 169 per day — remains significantly below the operational capacity of both the Rafah and Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) border crossings,” he wrote.

The Archbishop added that alternative avenues for getting aid into the territory, including by air and sea, were “unlikely to meet the urgent and monumental humanitarian needs of Gaza’s starving population”.

Air-drops of aid packages have damaged the solar panels on the Anglican-run Al-Ahli hospital in northern Gaza, he said, and this had affected the hospital’s power capacity.

On Friday, the UK and Australian governments also called for an “immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza to allow aid to flow and hostage to be released”. A joint statement signed by the UK and Australian foreign and defence ministers describes such a move as a “crucial step toward a permanent, sustainable ceasefire”, and called on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law.

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