United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on Wednesday, refuted the “misrepresentations” of his comments made a day earlier regarding Palestinian grievances. These comments had provoked the ire of Israel, which had pledged to take action against the United Nations.
“I am shocked by misrepresentations by some of my statement yesterday in the Security Council — as if I was justifying acts of terror by Hamas,” Guterres told reporters, without naming Israel.
Addressing a Security Council session on Tuesday, the UN chief, again without naming Israel, denounced “the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza.”
In remarks that especially outraged Israel, he said it was important to “recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum” as the Palestinians have been “subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.”
Guterres said Wednesday it was “necessary to set the record straight, especially out of respect for the victims and their families.”
“I spoke of the grievances of the Palestinian people. And in doing so, I also clearly stated, and I quote: ‘But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.’“
Israel’s outspoken ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, rejected the explanation and called on Guterres to resign.
He said that Israel would no longer “automatically” issue visas to UN officials who want to visit and accused other officials from the world body of having “spread lies” on the situation.
“It is a disgrace to the UN that the secretary-general does not retract his words and is not even able to apologize for what he said yesterday,” Erdan said in a statement.
Denouncing the original remarks on the “vacuum,” Erdan said, “Every person understands very well that the meaning of his words is that Israel has guilt for the actions of Hamas or, at the very least, it shows his understanding for the ‘background’ leading up to the massacre.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday canceled a meeting with Guterres and angrily pointed his finger at him during the session, reading graphic accounts of civilians killed in the October 7 assault by Hamas.
Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour came to the defense of Guterres, saying the attacks against the former Portuguese prime minister were “ridiculous” and noting that the UN chief personally went to the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
“Maybe today, he is the most popular man under the sun in all corners of the globe,” Mansour told reporters.
“We want such decisive leaders — that he does not waver when it comes for standing for justice,” said Mansour, part of the Palestinian Authority which is run by Hamas rivals.
Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burned to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials.
More than 6,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across Gaza in relentless Israeli bombardments in retaliation for the attacks by the Palestinian Islamist militant group, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.