Addressing Tuesday’s debate in the Council on the worsening crisis in Israel and Palestine, the UN chief said that although nothing could justify the “appalling” attacks by Hamas of 7 October which triggered the siege and bombardment of Gaza, it was important to recognize they “did not happen in a vacuum” and did not justify the collective punishment of Palestinians.
Following Secretary-General António Guterres’ briefing on Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan tweeted that, in effect, Mr. Guterres’s speech had sought to justify Hamas’s brutal assault which left some 1,400 dead, mainly civilians.
He demanded that the UN chief resign, and later said that Israel would now withhold visas from UN officials.
Israel’s foreign minister Eli Cohen also accused Mr. Guterres of justifying terrorism and cancelled a planned bilateral meeting with the UN chief on Tuesday.
Later on Tuesday the UN chief met some of the families of those taken hostage by Hamas fighters, and reaffirmed his call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those being held in violation of international law inside Gaza.
Shocked at misrepresentation
In a statement to correspondents at the stakeout outside the Security Council on Wednesday morning, Mr. Guterres said he was “shocked by the misrepresentation by some of my statement.”
Acknowledging that he had indeed spoken of Palestinian grievances, he stressed he had also said in the Council that “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.”
Without referring to Israeli diplomats specifically, the UN chief said it was “necessary to set the record straight – especially out of respect to the victims and to their families.”