China calls war in Gaza 'a disgrace to civilisation'

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced since the start of the war in October last year between Hamas and Israel. Picture: AFP

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced since the start of the war in October last year between Hamas and Israel. Picture: AFP

Published Mar 7, 2024


China described the war in Gaza as a "disgrace to civilisation" and called on Thursday for an immediate ceasefire as the conflict stretched into its sixth month despite efforts by mediators to reach a truce.

US President Joe Biden has urged Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan with Israel before the Muslim fasting month begins, which could be as early as Sunday depending on the sighting of the crescent moon.

However, mediators in Egypt have struggled to overcome tough obstacles in their attempts to negotiate a pause, while the United Nations has warned that famine looms for Palestinians trapped by the fighting.

"It is a tragedy for humankind and a disgrace for civilisation that today, in the 21st century, this humanitarian disaster cannot be stopped," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a news conference in Beijing.

China, historically sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, has been calling for a ceasefire since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.

"The international community must act urgently, making an immediate ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities an overriding priority, and ensuring humanitarian relief an urgent moral responsibility," Wang said.

The war has reduced vast stretches of Gaza to a wasteland of gutted buildings and rubble and sparked a humanitarian disaster for its 2.4 million people.

'Catastrophic' hunger levels

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Wednesday that 20 people have died of malnutrition and dehydration, at least half of them children.

Only limited aid has reached Gaza's north, where the UN's World Food Programme has warned that hunger has reached "catastrophic levels" in northern Gaza, where aid has been limited.

"Children are dying of hunger-related diseases and suffering severe levels of malnutrition," the WFP said.

According to Gaza's health ministry, one of the latest victims was a 15-year-old girl who died at Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital.

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said "the famine in northern Gaza has reached lethal levels" and could claim thousands of lives unless Gaza receives more aid and medical supplies.

Gazans were waiting to collect bags of flour outside a UN refugee agency office in the southern city of Rafah, now home to nearly 1.5 million Palestinians, most of them displaced by the war.

"The flour they provide is not enough," said displaced man Muhammad Abu Odeh. "They do not provide us with sugar or anything else except flour."

In Khan Yunis, southern Gaza's largest city, dozens of people went to inspect their homes and take what belongings they could recover after Israeli forces pulled out of the city centre, an AFP correspondent said.

The army has yet to respond to an AFP request to confirm such a withdrawal.