Former Prime Minister Hun Sen, who now serves as president of the Supreme Privy Council to the King, has called on Palestine-based Hamas to release its hostages and on Israel to keep their promise of not bombing civilians in Gaza. He warned that if the conflict continues, the region will become the world’s largest graveyard.

Hun Sen led Cambodia for more than 38 years, and is widely credited with ending Cambodia’s conflict through his much celebrated win-win policy, which eventually brought about comprehensive peace in 1998 with the reintegration of the remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas drags on – with ever-increasing casualties reported – Hun Sen took to social media to urge an end to the violence.

“Without a ceasefire, the Gaza Strip will become the world’s large massacre site,” he said.

Citing media reports of the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has said he will beef up his ongoing bombing campaign should hostages remain held in the custody of Hamas – Hun Sen described the release of hostages as the first step towards peace, while Israel must keep their promise of a ceasefire.

“I call on the UN secretary-general, and all other stakeholders, to begin negotiations, starting with the release of the hostages and an Israeli pledge of a ceasefire once the hostages are released,” he said.

“I also urge Hamas to release the hostages, in exchange for a ceasefire that will benefit the lives of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

The international media has reported that more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, when Hamas launched a wave of sneak attacks which left at least 1,400 Israelis dead. In addition, Israel has said that Hamas is holding 241 hostages, taken during the attacks.

The attacks drew a heavy response from Israel. Netanyahu told an American media that Israel planted to assume “security responsibility” for Gaza after the war, which means they intend to occupy Gaza militarily, for the first time since they withdrew in 2005.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres described Gaza as “becoming a graveyard for children” in a November 7 address.

“The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity,” he told the media, while underlining the need for humanitarian aid to the tune of $1.2 billion to help the nearly three million people living across the occupied Palestinian territories.

He said the only way forward for the ongoing conflict is a humanitarian ceasefire, respect for international humanitarian law, the unconditional release of hostages, and the protection of civilians, hospitals, UN facilities, shelters and schools.

He called for an end to the use of civilians as human shields and for more humanitarian aid to be permitted to enter Gaza immediately.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, described Hun Sen’s appeals as corresponding directly to the humanitarian situation on the ground in Gaza.

“His message is one from the people of a country which has experienced the tragedy of war and wishes for the world to be at peace, with no fighting and harmony between all people. His message is based on morality and humanitarian essentials, rather than political pressure,” he said.

He added that the world should be united to find a ways to resolve the ongoing conflict, based on the demands of each party.

He described the long-standing Israel-Palestine conflict as a shortfall of global unity, but noted the interference of outside countries, some of which sought to use Gaza as a ground to test their new weapons.

Political analyst Em Sovannara said the UN seemed to be powerless to end the fighting. He ascribed this to the loss of a common voice among powers like China, Russia, the US, UK and France, which are all increasingly polarised.

“The US and Israel hold the position of destroying what they call terrorists, while Hamas and many Islamic states see Israel persecuting Palestinians in Gaza. Moreover, Israel has not adhered to the borders drawn up by the UN to divide the country in 1948. These are just two of the issues surrounding the conflict,” he added.

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, echoed Hun Sen’s appeal, saying it made sense in the current situation. He saw the conflict in Gaza as the result of territorial claims by both Israel and Palestine, with each side having their own respective backers.