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Shocked by 'misinterpretations' of my statement in Security Council: UN chief on Hamas comment

United Nations: Amid uproar over his remarks that attacks by Hamas ‘did not happen in a vacuum’, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday expressed shock at the ‘misinterpretations’ of his comments and asserted it was necessary to set the record straight that he was not justifying acts of terror by Hamas.

‘I am shocked by the misinterpretations by some of my statement yesterday in the Security Council – as if I was justifying acts of terror by Hamas. This is false. It was the opposite,’ Guterres told reporters at the UN Security Council stakeout here.

‘I believe it was necessary to set the record straight – especially out of respect to the victims and to their families,’ he said.

In remarks that angered Israel, Guterres had told the Security Council ministerial meeting on Tuesday on the Israel-Hamas conflict that it is ‘important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.’

‘The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured 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.

Following these remarks, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who had participated in the Security Council session, cancelled his meeting with Guterres that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the UN headquarters.

Later, talking to reporters at the UN Security Council stakeout, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan lashed out at Guterres, saying his remarks in the Council were “unfathomable”.

‘You, Mr. Secretary-General, have lost all morality and impartiality. Because when you say those terrible words that these heinous attacks did not happen in a vacuum, you are tolerating terrorism and by tolerating terrorism, you are justifying terrorism,” Erdan said.

Erdan had said that Hamas beheaded babies, burnt families, raped women and abducted kids, babies and Holocaust survivors but the Secretary General is blaming Israel and the victim.

‘This is a pure blood libel. This is a pure blood libel. And I think that the Secretary General must resign because from now on everyday that he’s here in this building, unless he apologizes immediately today, we called him to apologize, there is no justification to the existence of this building,” Erdan said.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Guterres stressed that in the beginning of his intervention in Council on Tuesday, he had clearly stated that he “condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented” October 7 acts of terror by Hamas in Israel.

‘Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians – or the launching of rockets against civilian targets,” Guterres said, repeating the remarks he had made in the Council.

He added that he also spoke of the grievances of the Palestinian people when he said in the Council that “But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.” Guterres said that in his full intervention in the Council, he had referred to all his positions on “all aspects of the Middle East crisis.’ On Wednesday, Guterres said in a post on X: ‘The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the horrific attacks by Hamas. Those horrendous attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.’ More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians who died in the initial Hamas rampage into southern Israel.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported over 6,500 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes, including over 2,000 children and 1,100 women as well as journalists, medical workers and first responders, with more than 15,000 injured.

(Published 25 October 2023, 17:19 IST)

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