India at the UN welcomed the release of Israeli hostages by the Hamas group in the Gaza Strip and called for the unconditional and immediate return of the remaining captives as the two warring sides are in the midst of an extended truce. So far, over 60 hostages from Israel and 21 from other nationalities have been freed in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners as of Tuesday.
"We are gathered today at a time when the security situation in the Middle East is deteriorating due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, with large-scale loss of civilian lives, especially women and children and an alarming humanitarian crisis. This is clearly unacceptable and we have indeed strongly condemned the death of civilians," said India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj on Tuesday.
Kamboj further reiterated India's long-standing position that there is no justification for terrorism and hostage-taking and called for all parties to display responsibility for addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza. She further underlined that India's thoughts are with those who had been taken hostages during the Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel.
"India has a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism. We also believe that there is a universal obligation to observe international humanitarian law," said the Indian Ambassador, adding that New Delhi welcomes all efforts that lead to a de-escalation of the situation and delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Kamboj further termed the humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas conflict as a "welcome step” to ensure the timely and continuous delivery of humanitarian aid. This comes as India had delivered 70 tonnes of supplies including medicines and other essential medical supplies.
India's role in the conflict
According to Kamboj, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar have been in close contact with leaders of the Middle East since the start of the conflict and have emphasised the importance of preventing escalation, ensuring the continued delivery of humanitarian aid and working towards stability.
Ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 29, Kamboj reaffirmed India’s long-standing relationship with the Palestinian people, based on deep-rooted historical and people-to-people ties, and the country's consistent support to the people of Palestine in their efforts for statehood, peace and prosperity.
“India has always supported a negotiated two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognised borders, side-by-side in peace with Israel,” she said.
Earlier, during a virtual G20 Summit, PM Modi also said that the two-state solution was the only way to a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The Israel-Hamas truce
Israel and Hamas had entered into an agreement brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States for a temporary truce in fighting for four days, which was further extended by two days for the release of some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. The truce marks a major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict that brought much-needed respite for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In the latest swap on Tuesday, Israel said that ten of its citizens and two Thai nationals were released by Hamas and returned to Israel in exchange for 30 Palestinian prisoners. The truce is due to end on Wednesday night after the return of another batch of hostages.
Hamas and other Palestinian militants still hold about 160 hostages out of 240 abducted during the October 7 assault that kick-started the war. Israel has said it is willing to extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages, but the militant group is expected to make much higher demands.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the release of hostages and renewed his call for the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining captives. He said that the truce was a step in the right direction but did not solve key problems in the besieged territory.
(with inputs from agencies)