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US envoy to UN vows ‘to fiercely advocate’ for return of IDF troops’ bodies held by Hamas

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters during a news conference at United Nations headquarters, on March 1, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters during a news conference at United Nations headquarters, on March 1, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield says the Biden administration will “continue to fiercely advocate” for the return of the two civilians and bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers currently being held captive in Gaza.

Speaking at the UN Security Council’s monthly session to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Thomas-Greenfield recalls a meeting she held last month with Leah Goldin, the mother of Hadar, one of the two soldiers whose body is being held by Hamas.

“For the last seven years, the Goldins have advocated endlessly for his return. When I met with her, I promised her I would do everything possible to support her efforts to have her son returned. No parent – no one – should have to endure such a wretched experience,” the US envoy says.

“The United States will continue to fiercely advocate for the return of Israeli soldiers killed in action in Gaza, as well as the return of Israeli civilians held captive there. And we will continue to push for decency, for humanity, for equality, and for peace for all,” Thomas-Greenfield adds.

Turning to the Palestinian Authority, Thomas-Greenfield expresses concern over recent reports that the PA “is acting to restrict Palestinian freedom of expression and harass civil society activists and organizations. That is unacceptable.”

She says she’s particularly disturbed by the death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat while in PA custody and adds that “the circumstances of his death must be fully investigated and those responsible held accountable.”

The envoy expresses US commitment to a two-state solution and opposition to “efforts to single out Israel unfairly in UN forums.”

She said Washington opposes certain actions by Israel and the Palestinians, such as “settlement activity, annexation of territory, evictions, demolitions, incitement to violence, and compensating individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”

As for the flashpoint city of Jerusalem, Thomas-Greenfield says the US hopes to cooperate with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to maintain calm at the Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face eviction by Israeli authorities.

The envoy highlights the decision earlier this month by the Biden administration to sign a “framework for cooperation” with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

“UNRWA and its staff are tirelessly committed to serving the needs of Palestinian refugees – but the agency needs operational and managerial improvements,” Thomas-Greenfield says. “The United States has zero tolerance for manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism, or other forms of hatred in UN agencies, and that includes UNRWA. This is why our framework of cooperation – the most robust to date – outlines expectations and include benchmarks to increase UNRWA’s transparency and accountability, consistent with UN principles, including neutrality.”

The ambassador notes the subsequent US contribution of $136 million in humanitarian assistance for UNRWA, bringing the year’s total to $318 after such figures had been cut significantly by the Trump administration.

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