UN chief calls for interim Arab-US force to control Gaza after war

Guterres says United Nations protectorate would not work, but plan for post-war international force and eventual Palestinian Authority takeover already rejected by Netanyahu, Arabs

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers remarks during a Security Council open debate on the maintenance of international peace and security at the UN headquarters in New York on November 20, 2023. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

A UN protectorate in Gaza after the current Israel-Hamas war would not solve the conflict there, the world body’s secretary-general said Monday, calling instead for a “transition period,” involving Arab nations and the United States, and leading to a two-state solution.

Antonio Guterres said it was “important to be able to transform this tragedy into an opportunity” — which, for him, meant moving “in a determined and irreversible way to a two-state solution.”

That would mean, after the current war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in Gaza ends, “a strengthened Palestinian Authority assuming responsibilities in Gaza,” he said.

But the PA cannot go into Gaza backed by Israeli tanks, he added — meaning the “international community needs to look into a transition period.”

“I do not think that a UN protectorate in Gaza is a solution,” however, Guterres said.

Instead, he called for a “multi-stakeholder approach” that would see the US act as the “main guarantor” of Israel’s security, while Arab nations are “essential” to support Palestinians.

Illustrative: Palestinian Authority security officers deploy near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, on July 15, 2022. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

“Everybody needs to come together to create the conditions for the transition, allowing for a strengthened Palestinian Authority to assume responsibilities in Gaza,” and from there to a two-state solution, he said.

The Palestinian Authority used to rule Gaza until 2007, when it was overthrown by Hamas. It continues to rule parts of the West Bank, but is widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective.

Gutteres’s plan also conflicts with Israel’s current stated plans for Gaza’s post-war future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet elaborated on who will run Gaza once Hamas is eliminated, but has said that the PA is “not fit” in its current form to govern the Strip, and has also rebuffed calls for an international force.

Additionally, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the Manama Security Forum on Saturday that “no Arab troops” would be deployed in Gaza after the war.

Guterres also again denounced the killing of civilians — especially children — in Gaza, as Israel wages an air and ground campaign aimed at eliminating Hamas following its October 7 massacre.

For seven years now, he has published a “list of shame” of parties to armed conflict who commit grave violations against children. Israel’s absence from the list has previously been criticized by human rights organizations.

Without saying whether that may change this year, Guterres put the number of children killed in Gaza into stark context.

A man carries a child injured in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 20, 2023. (Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

In the “shame” reports, the highest number of children killed in one year by one actor was the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2017-2018, followed by the Syrian government and its allies before 2020. Both times the tally was in the hundreds.

“Without entering into discussing the accuracy of the numbers that were published by de facto authorities in Gaza, what is clear is that we have had in a few weeks thousands of children killed,” Guterres told reporters.

“We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since I am secretary-general.”

Guterres had already caused widespread outrage in Israel when he appeared to justify the deadly Hamas assault on Israel.

War erupted after Hamas’s shock October 7 assault on southern Israeli communities, when 3,000 terrorists broke through the border and murdered some 1,200 people, a majority of them civilians, amid brutal atrocities, and kidnapped some 240 people to Gaza.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate the terror group in a military campaign that the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed 13,000 people in Gaza, including thousands of children. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and do not distinguish between terror operatives, noncombatants, and those killed in failed rocket launches.

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