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'Not fit to lead UN': Israeli envoy demands resignation of Antonio Guterres over remarks on war

Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan alleged that the UN chief is showing compassion for atrocities against Israel and is completely disconnected from the reality of the country. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also said that he would not meet Guterres after his remarks.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Updated on: October 25, 2023 5:59 IST
Israel Ambassador to UN Gilad Erdan
Image Source : AP Israel Ambassador to UN Gilad Erdan

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, has demanded the resignation of the organisation's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, saying that he is "not fit to lead the UN" and is showing understanding for a "campaign of mass murder".

Taking to social media platform X, Erdan said, "The UN Secretary-General, who shows understanding for the campaign of mass murder of children, women, and the elderly, is not fit to lead the UN. I call on him to resign immediately."

"There is no justification or point in talking to those who show compassion for the most terrible atrocities committed against the citizens of Israel and the Jewish people. There are simply no words," the envoy continued.

In an earlier post, Erdan alleged that Guterres was "completely disconnected" from the reality in Israel and that the UN chief viewed the attacks by Hamas in a "distorted and immoral manner".

"His statement that, “the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum,” expressed an understanding for terrorism and murder. It’s really unfathomable. It’s truly sad that the head of an organization that arose after the Holocaust holds such horrible views. A tragedy!" Erdan added.

After Erdan's post, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that he would not meet with Guterres on the sidelines of the UN Security Council meeting. "I will not meet with the UN Secretary-General. After the October 7th massacre, there is no place for a balanced approach. Hamas must be erased off the face of the planet!" he said on X.

Addressing the UN Security Council session on the Israel-Gaza crisis, Cohen said, "Mr Secretary General (Guterres), in what world do you live? Definitely, this is not our world".

Reiterating Israel's stance to vanquish the militant organisation, the Israeli Foreign Minister said that the only "proportional response" to Hamas attacks is the "total destruction" of the group.

"This is the world we live Secretary General. We gave Palestinians Gaza till the last millimetre. There is no dispute to the length of Gaza, but they take the money from the world and instead of building hospital, office buildings...they built tunnels to dug tunnels to build rocket factory," Cohen said.

What did Guterres say?

According to BBC, Guterres came out in support of Palestine at a meeting of the UNSC on Tuesday and said that the brutal Hamas attack on October 7 "did not happen in a vacuum".

"The Palestinian people been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their lands steadily devolved by settlements and plagued by violence. Their economy stifled. Their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing," he said at the UNSC meeting.

Guterres said that the protection of civilians is paramount and expressed concern about "clear violations of international humanitarian law" in Gaza, without mentioning either Hamas or Israel by name. However, he also said that the situation in Palestine does not justify the Hamas attack and "those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged member-states of the UN to not "throw fuel on the fire" and send a united message to stop other countries from further exacerbating the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"All acts of terrorism are unlawful and unjustifiable. Whether they target people in Nairobi or Bali, in Mumbai, New York or Kibbutz Be'eri...They're unlawful and unjustifiable whether they're carried out by ISIS, by Boko Haram, by Lashkar E Taiba, or by Hamas," Blinken said, adding that at least 33 American citizens have been killed in the conflict.

"This council has a responsibility to denounce member states that arm, fund and train Hamas or any other terrorist group that carries out such horrific acts," Blinken further said.

The worsening situation in Gaza

The Hamas attack on October 7 killed 1,400 people, following which Israel unleashed relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip in their attempts to root out and kill Hamas militants. According to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, over 5,700 Palestinians have been killed, including 2,300 children and 1,300 women.

"More injustice and more killing will not make Israel safer. No amount of weapons, no alliance will bring to its security. Only peace will, peace with Palestine and its people. Our freedom is the condition of shared peace and security...It must be clear that this can only be achieved by putting an immediate end to the Israeli war launched against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," he said in the UNSC meeting.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry said that Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 704 people in the past day, representing a massive increase in the death count. Over 16,000 people have been wounded.

Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been running out of food, water and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the attack by Hamas. An expected ground offensive in Gaza is believed to have even more devastating humanitarian consequences.

Israel on Tuesday said that it had launched 400 airstrikes over the past day, killing Hamas commanders, hitting militants as they were preparing to launch rockets into Israel and striking command centers and a Hamas tunnel shaft. The previous day, Israel reported 320 strikes. 

One overnight strike leveled a four-story residential building in the southern city of Khan Younis, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens of others, according to survivors. 

Hamas militants have released two Israeli hostages out of the 222 captives abducted on October 7. According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, the two women were identified as Nurit Cooper, 80, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, both from Kibbutz Nir Oz and were released from Gaza to Egypt on Monday night.

The militant organisation said that they had decided to release the two elderly women for "humanitarian" and health reasons. "We decided to release them for compelling humanitarian and health reasons," the media reported quoted Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida as saying.

Hamas apparently received nothing in exchange for the release of the two hostages, who were freed days after an American woman and her teenage daughter. Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to have taken roughly 220 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual citizens.

(with input from agencies)

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