Israeli ambassador to the UN Eli Cohen PA
israel-hamas war

Israeli UN ambassador calls for resignation of UN chief after rejecting ceasefire

The UN secretary-general had earlier said that it was important to recognise that ‘the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum’.

ISRAEL’S UNITED NATIONS ambassador has called for the resignation of UN chief Antonio Guterres over his stance on the Israel-Hamas war during a tense diplomacy meeting in New York.

Gilad Erdan accused the secretary-general of having lost “all morality and impartiality”, taking issue especially with Guterres’s statement that it was important to recognise that “the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum”.

At the meeting, Israel vowed again to destroy Hamas, rejecting calls from the United Nations chief, the Palestinians and many countries at a high-level UN meeting for a ceasefire.

It also declared that the war in Gaza is not only its war but “the war of the free world”.

embedded637f0427dbd94e2db9886fc812b57021 UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres PA PA

Foreign minister Eli Cohen also dismissed calls for “proportionality” in the country’s response to Hamas’s surprise attacks on Israel on October 7 which killed 1,400 people and has since seen more than 5,700 Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip.

Guterres address

UN secretary-general Guterres had opened the monthly meeting on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which has turned into a major event with ministers from the war’s key parties and a dozen other countries flying to New York — warning that “the situation in the Middle East is growing more dire by the hour”.

The UN chief said the risk of the war spreading through the region is increasing as societies splinter and tensions threaten to boil over.

He called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to deliver desperately needed food, water, medicine and fuel. He also appealed “to all to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even farther”.

Guterres stressed that the rules of war must be obeyed.

He said the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify “the horrifying and unprecedented October 7 acts of terror” by Hamas in Israel and demanded the immediate release of all hostages.

But Guterres also stressed that “those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

He expressed deep concern at “the clear violations of international humanitarian law”, calling Israel’s constant bombardment of Gaza and the level of destruction and civilian casualties “alarming”.

Protecting civilians “is paramount in any armed conflict”, he said.

Without naming Hamas, the UN chief stressed that “protecting civilians can never mean using them as human shields”.

Guterres also criticised Israel without naming it, saying: “Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than one million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.”

‘Proportionate’ response

Israel’s foreign minister Cohen criticsed what was being asked of Israel.

“Tell me, what is a proportionate response for killing of babies, for rape (of) women and burn them, for beheading a child?” he asked. “How can you agree to a ceasefire with someone who swore to kill and destroy your own existence?”

He told the UN Security Council that the proportionate response to the October 7 massacre is “a total destruction to the last one of the Hamas”, calling the extremist group “the new Nazis”.

He added: “It is not only Israel’s right to destroy Hamas. It’s our duty.”

Cohen called the Hamas attacks “a wake-up call for the entire free world” against extremism, and he urged “the civilised world to stand united behind Israel to defeat Hamas”.

He warned that today it is Israel, and tomorrow Hamas and the attackers “will be at everyone’s doorstep”, starting with the West.

US proposal

The US is pushing for adoption of a resolution that would condemn the Hamas attacks in Israel and violence against civilians, and reaffirm Israel’s right to self-defence.

There were some expectations that it might go to a vote today, but diplomats said it was still being negotiated.

Earlier, the US laid out its stance that it would not support a ceasefire as it would “only benefit” Hamas.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki demanded an end to the Israeli attacks.

“We are here today to stop the killing, to stop… the ongoing massacres being deliberately and systematically and savagely perpetrated by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian civilian population,” he said.

“Over two million Palestinians are on a survival mission every day, every night.”

Under international law, he said, “it is our collective human duty to stop them”.

Al-Maliki warned that more attacks and killings and weapons and alliances will not make Israel safer: “Only peace will.”

“For those actively engaged to avoid an even greater humanitarian catastrophe and regional spillover, it must be clear that this can only be achieved by putting an immediate end to the Israeli war launched against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Stop the bloodshed.”

Death toll

The Hamas health ministry said at least 50 people were killed late today in a single hour of increased Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Israel was stunned by the Hamas attack on southern communities in which it says Hamas killed more than 1,400 people and took more than 200 hostages. It is widely expected to launch a land invasion of Gaza.

Hamas says that Israel’s devastating air and artillery strikes have already killed 5,791 people in Gaza including more than 2,000 children and about 1,400 women.

Today’s toll was more than 700 higher than the previous daily figure.

Press Association