UN chief tours Gaza border to see rocket, tunnel threats

Antonio Guterres then enters the Hamas-run coastal enclave to visit a UN school and meet residents

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, left, with United Nation's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, in a helicopter as they review the security situation along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, August 30, 2017. (Israel UN/Shlomi Amsalem)
Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, left, with United Nation's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, in a helicopter as they review the security situation along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, August 30, 2017. (Israel UN/Shlomi Amsalem)

Israel on Wednesday gave United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres a tour of the Gaza border, showing him both from the air and underground the threats the country faces from the Hamas-controlled Strip.

Guterres, who is on a three-day visit to the region, was accompanied on a helicopter tour by Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon along with IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

“Hamas continues to arm itself in order to harm Israel as it exploits the generous humanitarian aid provided by the international community,” Danon told Guterres.

After landing, Guterres inspected an example of a tunnel reaching into Israel uncovered by security forces and met with residents of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, an agricultural community near the border within range of the thousands of rockets and mortar bombs fired from inside the Gaza Strip.

“Instead of working to ensure a better future for their children, Hamas has turned the residents of Gaza into hostages, and is investing its resources into digging murderous terror tunnels,” Danon said.

Hamas has used tunnels dug under the border to launch terror attacks inside Israeli territory.

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United Nation’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inspects a tunnel dug by terrorists under the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel during his visit to the region, August 30, 2017. (Israel UN/ Shlomi Amsalem)

Residents of Nahal Oz presented Guterres with a book of drawings by Israeli kindergarten children, which they asked him to give to children he meets in Gaza when he travels to the Palestinian territory later in the day.

Afterwards, Guterres entered Gaza to visit a UN school there and meet with the Strip’s residents.

His visit to the region, his first since taking office at the beginning of the year, will come to an end later in the day with a speech at the Beit Hatfutsot Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday Guterres met separately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

File: Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border. (Ynet screenshot)

At a joint press conference Netanyahu criticized the UN’s treatment of Israel, saying that it fails to check Palestinian hate speech, “absurdly denies” Jewish connections to Jerusalem and has not stopped arms from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Guterres vowed that he will “do everything in my capacity” to ensure UN peacekeepers fulfill their obligations in Lebanon.

Earlier, President Reuven Rivlin called on Guterres to curb what he described as “the discrimination against Israel” in some UN institutions.

Guterres, in turn, stressed his commitment to impartiality in “treating all states equally.” He said those who call for Israel’s destruction peddle in a “form of modern anti-Semitism” — though he also said he doesn’t always agree with the country’s policies.

On Tuesday Guterres also met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah, where the UN chief declared that the two-state solution is the only viable option for a peace agreement.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (L) meets with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (R) in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 29, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Mohamad Torokman)

After his talks with Hamdallah, Guterres met with the families of Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons.

In a statement, the UN said the encounter was not planned and Guterres had been confronted by the mothers of child detainees in the West Bank city following his meetings with Palestinian officials.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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