Antonio Guterres
Antonio GuterresReuters

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday appealed for an immediate halt to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the return of hostages and a "surge" in humanitarian aid to the Strip, AFP reports.

“I repeat my call, the world’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid,” Guterres said in a video address to an international donors’ conference in Kuwait.

“But a ceasefire will only be the start. It will be a long road back from the devastation and trauma of this war,” he added.

"The war in Gaza is causing horrific human suffering, devastating lives, tearing families apart and rendering huge numbers of people homeless, hungry and traumatized," the UN chief said.

Guterres’ comments came several days after he demanded that Israel end its military operation in Rafah.

"I am disturbed and distressed by the renewed military activity in Rafah by the Israeli Defense Forces," Guterres wrote on social media, adding, "I urge the Government of Israel to stop any escalation, and engage constructively in the ongoing diplomatic talks."

In a subsequent post, Guterres wrote, "I reiterate my appeal for Israel and Hamas to show political courage and spare no effort to secure an agreement now. To stop the bloodshed. To free the hostages. To help stabilize the region. This is a crucial opportunity that we cannot afford to miss."

Guterres has been criticized for his attempts to create a moral equivalence between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization.

Near the start of the war in Gaza, Guterres said that Hamas’ attack on Israel “did not happen in a vacuum” and appeared to blame Israel for the attack.

After his remarks were widely condemned, the UN chief claimed his comments were misinterpreted and that he had indeed condemned Hamas.

More recently, he mentioned the sexual crimes committed by Hamas in its October 7 attack in Israel in the same breath as “reports of sexual violence against Palestinian detainees”.

The crimes committed by Hamas were confirmed in a report released by UN Special Rapporteur Pramila Patten. On the other hand, UN experts have accused IDF soldiers of raping Palestinian Arab women and girls in detention but have not provided evidence to back those claims.