The United Nations warned that the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip had reached an "unprecedented point" on Wednesday, as Israel stepped up its calls for the U.N. chief to resign over comments a day earlier.
"The U.N. Relief and Works agency, UNRWA, by far the largest humanitarian provider in Gaza, warned that unless fuel is allowed into Gaza immediately, UNRWA will be forced to halt operations tonight," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
He said hospitals are shutting down because of a lack of fuel, water, medical supplies and personnel. Fuel is also being "severely rationed" and used to run select critical facilities.
The U.N. has 400,000 liters of fuel that has been waiting for days to cross from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. So far, Israel has not given the security guarantees necessary to safely deliver it, arguing that Hamas is hoarding large quantities of fuel and accusing Hamas of planning to divert at least some of any new deliveries for military purposes.
Food is also running short.
"The World Food Program estimates that current supplies of essential food in Gaza are sufficient for about 12 days," Dujarric said. "However, at shops, the available stock is expected to last for only five days."
He said the water situation is also grave, with people drinking well water, which the U.N. says is high in salt and poses health risks.
About 2.2 million people live in the Gaza Strip, and the United Nations estimates more than 1.4 million of them have been displaced by the hostilities that erupted following Hamas' deadly October 7 terror attack on Israeli towns and cities.
Since then, Israel has been bombing Hamas targets in Gaza and has put the Hamas-controlled territory under siege. After two weeks of international negotiations, on Saturday, limited water, food and medical supplies were allowed into Gaza.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a Security Council meeting on Tuesday that the relief so far is "a drop of aid in an ocean of need."
The Security Council will again attempt to adopt a resolution calling for some kind of halt to the hostilities so aid can go in. Last week, two separate attempts to get a resolution offering relief to Gazans failed — one due to a veto by the United States.
Council members are expected to vote later Wednesday on two new draft resolutions. One put forward by the United States calls for humanitarian "pauses" and another put forward by Russia calls for a humanitarian "cease-fire."
Arab foreign ministers were clear in their appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire at a Security Council meeting on Tuesday, saying civilians in Gaza are facing a desperate situation.
"Every hour we speak more civilians in Gaza are dying, more people are getting injured," Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told reporters. "The situation is getting worse. A cease-fire is an absolute necessity — immediately."
Israel rejects the idea.
"How can you agree to a cease-fire with someone who swore to kill and destroy your own existence? How?" Israel's foreign minister Eli Cohen said at Tuesday's meeting.
Israel is also furious with Guterres.
At the same meeting, Guterres, who has repeatedly and strongly condemned Hamas' terror attack and called for the immediate release of the more than 200 hostages the militants hold, said it is important to recognize that the attack "did not happen in a vacuum."
"The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation," Guterres said on Tuesday, adding that their land has been "steadily devoured" by settlements and plagued by violence.
He added that Palestinian grievances "cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas" but added that the terror attack cannot "justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."
Israel's foreign minister canceled a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the U.N. chief in protest and his U.N. envoy went further, calling for Guterres to resign and saying Israel would have to reassess its relations with the United Nations. It has since threatened to stop issuing visas for U.N. personnel.
On Wednesday, Guterres addressed the diplomatic flap.
"I am shocked by the misinterpretations by some of my statement yesterday in the Security Council — as if I was justifying acts of terror by Hamas," he told reporters. "This is false. It was the opposite."
Israel's envoy doubled down on his calls for Guterres to resign.
"It is a disgrace to the U.N. that the secretary-general does not retract his words and is not even able to apologize for what he said yesterday," Gilad Erdan said in a statement. "He must resign."
Guterres' spokesperson said the U.N. chief "has absolutely no comment on his calls for his resignation."