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UN hopes to get more aid to Gaza during expected pause in Israel-Hamas war

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Starting as early as Friday, there could be some hostages released in Gaza and a pause in Israel's offensive against Hamas. United Nations aid agencies are planning to use this time to get more assistance to Palestinians. They say women and children are bearing the brunt of this war, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: At the latest U.N. Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war, a top U.N. official, Sima Bahous, brought a message from Palestinian women under siege.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIMA BAHOUS: The women in Gaza feel completely abandoned. They hear that more humanitarian relief is coming but can see that the trickle of aid does not meet the ocean of need.

KELEMEN: Bahous is the executive director of U.N. Women. She and the heads of other U.N. agencies told the Security Council that they hope a four-day pause, announced as part of a hostage deal, will be extended to allow the delivery of more assistance. She says two-thirds of those killed in Israel's campaign against Hamas have been women and children.

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BAHOUS: Women in Gaza have told us that they pray for peace, but that if peace does not come, they pray for a quick death in their sleep with their children in their arms. It should shame us all that any mother anywhere has such a prayer.

KELEMEN: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations is mobilizing to take advantage of the expected lull in fighting to get more fuel into Gaza and other vital aid. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the hostage deal a real cause for hope. Like Israel does, she blames Hamas for the high civilian death toll.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They are deliberately and callously putting them in harm's way, hiding behind the skirts of their women and innocent civilians. Still, this does not lessen Israel's responsibility to protect civilians consistent with international humanitarian law.

KELEMEN: Thomas-Greenfield says she regrets that the council refused to hear from an Israeli women's rights advocate about the violence against Israeli women and girls in the October 7 Hamas attack.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF CURREN$Y AND STATIK SELEKTAH SONG, "GRAN TURISMO (FEAT. TERMANOLOGY)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.