UN chief to Security Council: Hamas terror attack 'did not happen in a vacuum'

Antonio Guterres says Palestinians have been subjected to 56 years of 'suffocating occupation' leading up to massacre of 1,400 Israelis; Israeli envoy says Guterres 'unfit' to head international body, calls on him to immediately resign
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking to the UN Security Council during a hearing on the Israel-Hamas war, told the international body that the October 7 terrorist attack by the Palestinian group "did not happen in a vacuum," because Palestinians have been subjected to 56 years of "suffocating occupation." He also said that he is "deeply concerned about clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza."
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At the end of his address to a UN Security Council meeting on "The Situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine," Guterres called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
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אנטוניו גוטרש
אנטוניו גוטרש
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
(Photo: Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images)
On October 7, thousands of Hamas terrorists and their supporters, in a long-planned and coordinated attack, broke through the border fence and killed at least 1,400 Israelis in a violent massacre in Gaza border communities, and took more than 200 people back to Gaza where they are being held hostage. Four hostages have since been released, two American women and two elderly Israeli women.
Guterres said that at least 35 UN staff members "and counting" have been killed since Israel began retaliatory airstrikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Some 600,000 Gazans are sheltering in UN buildings in Gaza, he said.
"At a crucial moment like this it is vital to be clear on principles, starting with the fundamental principle of respecting and protecting civilians," Guterres said.
He noted that he has "condemned unequivocally" the "horrifying acts of terror" committed by Hamas in its attack on October 7, adding that "all hostages must be treated humanely and released immediately without conditions." Several family members of hostages held in Gaza attended the UNSC meeting.
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אחת הדירות אותה שרפו מחבלים שחדרו לקיבוץ ניר עוז
אחת הדירות אותה שרפו מחבלים שחדרו לקיבוץ ניר עוז
Kibbutz Nir Oz home heavily damaged in Hamas attack
(Photo: Reuters)
Guterres listed the Palestinian grievances. "They have seen their lands steadily gone by settlements and plagued by violence, their economy stifled, their people displaced and their homes demolished." He added that the Palestinians' hope for a political solution is "vanishing."
He added that "the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."
On Tuesday, a fourth convoy of humanitarian aid entered the coastal enclave through the Rafah Crossing on the border with Egypt. Guterres said that the aid entering Gaza, 54 trucks so far, is "a drop of aid in an ocean of need" and must be delivered "without restrictions." The aid has included medical supplies and food, but Israel has demanded that no fuel be allowed to enter since it could fall into the hands of Hamas. The fuel is used to power generators that keep hospitals and other essential services running.
Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan called Guterres's speech "shocking" in a statement posted on the social media platform X.
"The shocking speech by the UN Secretary-General at the Security Council meeting, while rockets are being fired at all of Israel, proved conclusively, beyond any doubt, that the Secretary-General is completely disconnected from the reality in our region and that he views the massacre committed by Nazi Hamas terrorists in a distorted and immoral manner," the post said.
"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!"
In remarks to Hebrew-language media, Erdan called Guterres "unfit" to head the international body, and called on him to immediately resign.
"The UN secretary-general, who began his remarks to the Security Council with 'understanding' for the horrendous barbaric massacre carried out by Hamas against women, children and the elderly, is unfit to lead the UN. I call for his immediate resignation from his position. Every day the UN Secretary-General remains in office proves that this institution no longer has any right to exist."
Yad Vashem published the following statement in response: "The slaughter of Jews by Hamas on October 7th was genocidal in its intents and immeasurably brutal in its form. Part of why it differs from the Holocaust is because Jews have today a state and an army. We are not defenseless and at the mercy of others. However, it puts to test the sincerity of world leaders, intellectuals and influencers that come to Yad Vashem and pledge “Never Again”. Those who seek to "understand", look for a justifying context, do not categorically condemn the perpetrators, and do not call for the unconditional and immediate release of the abducted – fail the test. UN Secretary General António Guterres failed the test."
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