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Israel calls for UN chief to resign over Gaza comments

October 25, 2023

Israeli diplomats have bristled at comments by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the October 7 terror attacks on Israel by the militant Hamas group "did not happen in a vacuum."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters
Guterres said there had been "clear violations of international humanitarian law" in GazaImage: Seth Wenig/AP Photo/picture alliance

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, on Tuesday called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign.

The envoy accused Guterres of "expressing an understanding" for the "terrorism and murder" of Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel.

In comments to the United Nations Security Council earlier Tuesday, Guterres called for an immediate cease-fire and decried "clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza."

He said Palestinians had been subjected to decades of occupation, before adding: "It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum."

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, as well as by Germany and the EU among others.

What was the Israeli diplomats' response to Guterres's comments?

Ambassador Erdan took the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, and said said Guterres' comments meant he was "not fit to lead the UN."

"I call on him to resign immediately," Erdan wrote. "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 UN chief's remarks also angered Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who pointed his finger at Guterres and raised his voice to recount graphic accounts of civilians, including young children, who were murdered on October 7. 

"Mr Secretary-General, in what world do you live?" Cohen said. "Definitely, this is not our world."

Cohen canceled a planned meeting with Guterres after the clash.

"I will not meet with the UN Secretary-General. After October 7th there is no room for a balanced approach. Hamas must be wiped off the face of the planet," Cohen wrote on social media.

Amid ruins of Kibbutz Be'eri, witnesses recount Hamas attack

Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel on October 7, attacking mainly civilian targets including families and a music festival. They killed at least 1,400 people and took more than 220 people hostages, according to Israeli figures.

More than 5,700 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have also been killed across the Gaza Strip in retaliatory Israeli bombardments, according to estimates provided by the Hamas-run health ministry.

rc/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)