Israel rejects calls for ceasefire and says UN chief should resign over 'shocking' comments on Gaza crisis

25 October 2023, 01:16

Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire and said the UN chief should resign.
Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire and said the UN chief should resign. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire and demanded the UN chief resign after he suggested that Hamas’ attack was linked to the “suffocating occupation” of Palestinian territories.

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The Israeli ambassador, Gilad Erdan, has said UN chief Antonio Guterres is “not fit” to lead the body after his “shocking" comments suggesting Hamas’ attack on Israel did not happen “in a vacuum”.

Mr Guterres made the comments during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday.

World leaders gathered to debate whether to support a temporary ceasefire to enable the release of Hamas’ remaining 200 hostages and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

But Mr Guterres' comments elicited fury in Israeli delegates.

“The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Mr Guterres said.

“But 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.'

Israeli ambassador Mr Erdan said the UN chief’s comments showed that he was “completely disconnected from the reality in our region” as he called on him to resign.

“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,” Mr Erdan said.

Antonio Guterres has faced calls to resign as United Nations Secretary-General.
Antonio Guterres has faced calls to resign as United Nations Secretary-General. Picture: Alamy

“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.”

It comes as Israel has so far rejected calls for a ceasefire, as it continues to insist it is preparing to 'wipe out' Hamas in a ground invasion after a terrorist attack killed 1,400 Israelis earlier this month.

Eli Cohen, the Israeli foreign minister, cancelled a meeting with Mr Guterres over his “shocking” comments.

He said: “Mr Secretary General, in what world do you live? Definitely this is not our world,” he said holding up photos of children kidnapped by Hamas.

“How can you agree to a ceasefire when someone swore to kill and destroy your existence.”

The Israeli delegation claimed that his showed he had “expressed an understanding for terrorism and murder”.

The United States and the United Kingdom have both publicly supported Israel's right to defend itself, rejecting pleas to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Read more: Calls for Israel-Hamas ceasefire grow as UN chief warns situation in Gaza 'worsening by the hour'

Read more: Cousin of man being held hostage by Hamas calls for ceasefire, as he accuses Israeli government of ‘failing' its people

Ben Kentish speaks to cousin of Israeli hostage kidnapped by Hamas

But the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken came close to calling for a ceasefire on Tuesday when he said "humanitarian pauses" must be considered in order to allow civilians to "get out of harm's" way.

Calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have also continued to grow in the UK, with around 70 MPs urging the government to call for the fighting to stop.

Cities across the world held pro-Palestine marches on the weekend, calling for a ceasefire of the war, including almost 100,000 in central London on Saturday.

It comes as the Israel Defence Forces readies itself for a ground invasion of Gaza, however the IDF said “at this stage, there are tactical and strategic factors that give us more time”.

“We will enter the Gaza Strip, we will enter for an operational, professional task – to destroy Hamas’s operatives, Hamas’s infrastructure – and we will remember in our minds the pictures and the scenes and those who were killed on Shabbat two weeks ago,” Gen Herzi Halevi, the Israeli chief of the general staff, said.

It comes after the Hamas-run health ministry claimed on Tuesday that more than 5,000 people had been killed in Gaza since Israel began its retaliatory strikes on the territory on October 7.

On Monday evening Hamas released two more hostages, bringing the total number of hostages released to four.

Udi Goren, the cousin of Tal Haimi who was kidnapped by Hamas, told LBC that “more bloodshed” will not resolve the war.

Speaking to LBC's Ben Kentish, Mr Goren called for a ceasefire, as he said civilian lives need to be made a "priority".