Minister slams UN Secretary General over 'justifying' Hamas attacks

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick slams UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as ‘wrong’ and refuses to back him staying in post after he ‘justified’ Hamas terror attack on Israel by saying it ‘didn’t happen in a vacuum’

  • Israel’s UN ambassador said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was ‘not fit’

A Cabinet minister today slammed the UN Secretary General after he ‘justified’ the Hamas terror attacks by saying they ‘did not happen in a vacuum’.

Antonio Guterres sparked a furious diplomatic row by condemning the atrocities by identifying ’56 years of suffocating occupation’ as a cause.

He also called for an immediate ceasefire at the session in New York overnight – something most Western countries have not done because it would prevent Israel taking action against Hamas. 

Israel’s UN ambassador said Mr Guterres was ‘not fit’ to lead the body and must resign. 

In a round of interviews this morning, the UK’s immigration minister Robert Jenrick pointedly stopped short of backing Mr Guterres to stay in post.

He said it was ‘wrong’ to suggest there is any justification for the murder of 1,400 people including women and babies, and hostage taking. 

‘No-one, whether deliberately or otherwise, should be implying there is any justification for that,’ he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

‘In that sense, I think he was wrong. I hope that isn’t what he meant but, if it is, then he should retract that.’

Asked whether Mr Guterres should stand down following his comments, Mr Jenrick said: ‘That is not for me to say.

‘But I do think it is important we are all very clear that there is no justification for what happened, there is no context that is relevant.

‘What happened was an appalling act of evil terrorism and everyone should call that out.’

Israel has called for the UN’s Secretary General Antonio Guterres (pictured) to resign for saying the Hamas attacks cannot justify the ‘collective punishment of the Palestinian people’

In a round of interviews this morning, the UK’s immigration minister Robert Jenrick said it was ‘wrong’ to suggest there is any justification for the murder of 1,400 people including women and babies

In a major diplomatic row, Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan (pictured) said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was ‘not fit’ to lead the body after he claimed the 1,400 murders did not happen ‘in a vacuum’

The UN chief made the incendiary comments in a high-level meeting of the 15-member Security Council ahead of an expected ground invasion of Gaza.

He said: ‘It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. 

‘The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,’ Mr Guterres added.

‘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.’

The Israeli ambassador, Gilad Erdan, said the speech was ‘shocking’ and Mr Guterres was ‘completely disconnected from the reality in our region’.

READ MORE: ANDREW NEIL: Those who seek to deny the horror of Hamas’s modern-day Holocaust are dragging the world into a new dark age

He added: ‘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. 

‘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.’

Earlier, Israel’s foreign minister said he would no longer meet with Mr Guterres and criticised his call for a ceasefire at the UN security council in New York.

Eli Cohen said: ‘Mr Secretary General, in what world do you live? Definitely this is not our world,’ as he held up photos of children kidnapped by Hamas. 

‘How can you agree to a ceasefire when someone swore to kill and destroy your existence,’ he added.

Mr Cohen then thanked President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for standing with Israel.

In yesterday’s meeting, Israel defied calls for a ceasefire, saying its war on Hamas was a ‘war of the free world’.

Mr Blinken and the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki both appealed for protection of civilians in Gaza.

It came after the Hamas-led ministry of health in Gaza reported more than 700 Palestinians were killed in 24 hours of Israeli air strikes, the highest daily death toll since the bombardment began.

More than 5,700 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks since the war began, it says, according to the New York Times. 

Mr Guterres, 74, succeeded Ban Ki-Moon as the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations in October 2016.

He had served as the prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 as head of the Portuguese Socialist Party.

His tenure has been noted for being considerably more friendly toward Israel than previous secretary generals, criticising anti-Israeli bias in the UN system and stating that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism.

But in July he was criticised by Israeli diplomats for condemning the ‘excessive force’ used by their military in a raid on the West Bank city of Jenin, which killed 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier.

Israeli soldiers inspect the site of a music festival near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Friday October 13

Aerial photo shows abandoned and torched vehicles at the site of the October 7 attack on the Supernova desert music Festival by Palestinian militants near Kibbutz Reim in the Negev desert in southern Israel on October 13

After the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7 Mr Guterres issued a statement recognising the ‘legitimate grievances’ of the Palestinian people, but said that ‘nothing can justify the acts of terror and the killing, maiming and abduction of civilians’.

He also urged Israel to conduct its military operations ‘in strict accordance with international humanitarian law’, although he said he recognised ‘Israel’s legitimate security concerns’.

He added: ‘Civilians must be respected and protected at all times. Civilian infrastructure must never be a target.’ He subsequently tweeted that he was ‘horrified’ by the strike a Gaza hospital, which was later reported to have been committed by Palestinian forces.

In a furious interview after the UN session ended, Mr Erdan said the secretary general’s remarks were comparable to the anti-Semitic ‘blood libel’. 

He told reporters: ‘Mr Secretary General, the UN was established to prevent atrocities, to prevent such atrocities like the barbaric atrocities that Hamas committed. But the UN is failing. 

And you, Mr Secretary General have lost all morality and impartiality. Hamas… beheaded babies, burned families, raped women, abducted kids, babies, Holocaust survivors.’

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