Israel has decided to deny a visa to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, following remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The UN Secretary-General Guterres accused Israel of “collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” He condemned the bombardment and blockade of Gaza as a violation of international law. The statement further deepened the divide between him and the Israeli government.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen cancelled a planned meeting with Guterres.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, announced that visas for UN representatives would be denied, specifically targeting those who had supported Guterres’ comments.

This includes the visa refusal for Martin Griffiths, who plays a crucial role in coordinating humanitarian aid and relief efforts.

Guterres argued that the attacks on Israel could not be viewed in isolation. He attributed them to the long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, citing 56 years of Israeli occupation, the impact of settlements, violence, economic challenges, displacement, and home demolitions.

The UN Secretary-General also expressed the need for humane treatment and the unconditional release of hostages, with a particular focus on the deliberate harm to civilians, including killings, injuries, and kidnappings.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan characterised Guterres’ speech as “shocking.” Erdan called for Guterres’ immediate resignation, asserting that the Secretary-General was detached from reality and seemed to justify terrorism and murder.

Tensions escalated further as Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, describing the situation as one of “epic suffering.” He cited Israeli airstrikes that reportedly resulted in over 700 casualties in a single day and led to the shutdown of three hospitals due to fuel shortage.

Israel is now stopping new fuel supplies from reaching Gaza. The Israeli government accuses Hamas of stockpiling fuel. Hospitals, forced to limit their services due to fuel shortage, can only provide emergency care.

Health ministry in Gaza reported Israeli had killed at least 704 people in the past day. This brings the total death toll in Gaza to 5,791, including 2,360 children, after 18 days of intensive bombing.

The United Nations, the largest aid provider in Gaza, warned that its operations will come to a halt if it does not receive fresh supplies imminently.

Although another eight aid lorries carrying essential supplies like food, water, and medicine crossed into Gaza from Egypt recently, humanitarian agencies stress that at least 100 lorries a day are needed to meet the growing demands of the population. US President Joe Biden remarked that the aid delivery is not fast enough.

Meanwhile, former US President Barack Obama cautioned Benjamin Netanyahu’s government that severing access to food, water, and electricity might have long-lasting repercussions, potentially solidifying Palestinians’ negative sentiments for generations and eroding global backing for Israel.