The head of the World Health Organization called for a ceasefire and a “true solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in an emotional plea to the global health body’s governing body on Thursday where he described conditions in Gaza as “hellish”.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who lived through war as a child and whose own children hid in a bunker during bombardments in Ethiopia’s 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea, became emotional describing conditions in the bombed-out Gaza enclave where more than 25,000 people have been killed.
“I’m a true believer because of my own experience that war doesn’t bring solution, except more war, more hatred, more agony, more destruction. So let’s choose peace and resolve this issue politically,” Tedros told the WHO Executive Board in Geneva during a discussion about the Gaza health emergency.
“I think all of you have said the two-state solution and so on, and hope this war will end and move into a true solution,” he said, before breaking down, describing the current situation as “beyond words”.
Read Israel braces for World Court ruling, focuses attack on south Gaza
Israel unleashed its campaign to eliminate Hamas after the Palestinian resistance group burst into Israel on October 7 killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took over 200 hostages back to Gaza.
In more than three months of the war, Israel’s campaign has levelled much of the enclave, displaced some 1.9 million Palestinians and killed at least 25,900 people, according to Gaza officials. Israel launched a campaign brutal bombardment and a ground invasion in October after resistance fighters from Hamas stormed into southern Israel after enduring more than seven decades of Israeli atrocities and oppression.
Israel’s ambassador said Tedros’ comments represented a “complete leadership failure”.
“The statement by the director-general was the embodiment of everything that is wrong with WHO since October 7th. No mention of the hostages, the rapes, the murder of Israelis, nor the militarisation of hospitals and Hamas’ despicable use of human shields,” Meirav Eilon Shahar said in comments sent to Reuters.
She also accused the global health agency of “collusion” with Hamas, saying the WHO turned a blind eye to Hamas’ activities in Gaza hospitals.
In the same address, Tedros warned that more people in Gaza would die of starvation and disease.
“If you add all that, I think it’s not easy to understand how hellish the situation is,” he said.