UN chief slams Hamas, warns Israel over retaliatory actions

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lambasts Hamas’ attacks on Israel, calling on the terror group to release all hostages while also expressing distress over Israel’s response to the surprise assault that began on Saturday morning.

“Let me begin by repeating my utter condemnation of the abhorrent attacks by Hamas and others against Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza periphery, which have left over 800 Israelis dead and more than 2,500 injured,” Guterres says in a statement to the press after huddling with senior UN officials to discuss the ongoing violence from Gaza. “I recognize the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people. But nothing can justify these acts of terror and the killing, maiming and abduction of civilians.”

“I reiterate my call to immediately cease these attacks and release all hostages,” he adds.

Guterres says he is “deeply alarmed” by the death count on the Palestinian side as well, which has included many women and children.

“While I recognize Israel’s legitimate security concerns, I also remind Israel that military operations must be conducted in strict accordance with international humanitarian law,” he says, blasting Israel for targeting civilian infrastructure.

“I am deeply distressed by today’s announcement that Israel will initiate a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, nothing allowed in – no electricity, food, or fuel,” Guterres says. “The humanitarian situation in Gaza was extremely dire before these hostilities; now, it will only deteriorate exponentially,” he adds, calling on Israel to allow humanitarian supplies and personnel into the Strip.

Guterres says he and other top UN officials are engaging with leaders in the region to prevent a further spillover of violence.

“Even in these worst of times – and perhaps especially in the most trying moments – it is vital to look to the long-term horizon and avoid irreversible action that would embolden extremists and doom any prospects for lasting peace,” he says.

“This most recent violence does not come in a vacuum. The reality is that it grows out of a long-standing conflict, with a 56-year long occupation and no political end in sight.”

“Israel must see its legitimate needs for security materialized – and Palestinians must see a clear perspective for the establishment of their own state realized,” Guterres continues, calling for a two-state solution.

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