S. Korean envoy chokes up speaking of Hersh Goldberg-Polin

In first, UN Security Council holds meeting solely focused on hostages held by Hamas

‘We cannot allow the normalization of this unprecedented form of terrorism,’ freed hostage tells informal gathering of body; US envoy calls on terror group to release the captives

Demonstrators gather for a rally calling for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, outside of United Nations headquarters in New York City, on December 12, 2024. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Illustrative: Demonstrators gather for a rally calling for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, outside of United Nations headquarters in New York City, on December 12, 2024. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Shoshan Haran, her daughter and two grandchildren were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists in Israel on October 7. On Thursday, Haran recalled the effects of 50 days in captivity on her three-year-old granddaughter when they were finally released.

“Three weeks after we were released, Yahel only whispers, too afraid to make a noise. She hid from everyone, too afraid to go outside. She wet her bed and had nightmares, too afraid she may be captured again,” Haran told an informal UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, convened by the United States.

Hamas-led terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 252 hostages.

The US centered the meeting — the first held at the UN solely focused on the hostages captured by Hamas — on “condemning hostage-taking in Israel on October 7 as a psychological tool of terrorism.”

Ayelet Samerano, whose son was killed on October 7 and his body taken by Hamas, and Gili Roman, whose sister was taken hostage and released in November as part of a week-long truce deal, also addressed the gathering.

“We cannot allow the normalization of this unprecedented form of terrorism — mass hostage-taking of unarmed civilians, women, children, elderly,” said Haran, now 68, founder of farming and food security charity Fair Planet.

“What you see as our problem today might become a worldwide problem to each and every country in the near future,” she said.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks with freed hostage Shoshan Haran during a Security Council meeting on the Hamas terror group’s taking of hostages during the Oct. 7 attack, May 16, 2024. (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In three resolutions, the UN Security Council has called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the meeting in a UN conference room that the demand of the United States, its 25 co-sponsors, all Israelis, and many others is simple: bring the hostages who come from 20 countries home.

“This is a responsibility that President (Joe) Biden feels, to his core, and he’s committed to seeing through,” she said. “Taking hostages is cowardly — a cowardly tactic designed to instill fear, manipulate governments, and advance nefarious agendas. It violates basic principles of humanity.”

“Yet Hamas and other terrorist groups have not relented. So today, let us again demand Hamas release all remaining hostages,” she continued. “To put it simply: It would save lives on all sides.”

South Korea’s deputy ambassador Sangjin Kim choked up and was unable to continue while speaking of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who appeared in a video recently released by Hamas.

There was unanimous condemnation of hostage-taking by all 15 council members and other speakers, but Russia, China and Algeria — which represents the 22 Arab nations on the council — and other countries also condemned Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

279 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Gaza Strip.

“Unfortunately, in the occupied Palestinian territories, we see the barbaric killing machine of the Israeli occupier wreaking havoc in Gaza under the pretext of ensuring the release of the hostages,” said Algerian diplomat Ahmed Sahraoui.

Russian diplomat Georgiy Barsukov told the meeting his country had unequivocally condemned Hamas’ hostage-taking, but went after the US for focusing on the October 7 attack that triggered the war “when there are many indications that genocide is being committed against Palestinians in Gaza – and when the Israelis are defying the overwhelming majority of the international community and launching an operation in Rafah, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians.”

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the meeting that 132 hostages taken on October 7 are still being held in Gaza and that this was the “first meeting being held by any UN body to focus on their suffering and ways to release them.”

“The hostages are the most urgent and critical humanitarian issue that the council must focus on,” Erdan said.

“Has the council condemned Hamas and demanded they permit the Red Cross to check on the hostages? Have you imposed sanctions on Hamas leadership until they release the hostages? What action has been taken?” he continued. “In the past 32 weeks since October 7, the Security Council and the UN have done practically, practically nothing to secure the release of the hostages.”

“It is heartbreaking and amoral. Our hostages are enduring beatings, torture, and rape.”

UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten briefs the press on the findings of a UN report on sexual violence during Hamas’ October 7 attacks, at the UN Headquarters, New York City, March 4, 2024. (Screenshot/UNTV/AFP)

The UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten was supposed to provide a briefing at Thursday’s hearing, but pulled out days ahead of time, a UN diplomat told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

A UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity that Patten’s withdrawal was not due to scheduling issues.

The diplomat hinted that the decision was politically motivated, as her office has faced pressure not to be seen as prioritizing the plight of the Israeli hostages over that of the Palestinians caught in the middle of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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