Israel and the United Nations are locked in a bitter spat, after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday night said that the Hamas attacks of October 7 “did not happen in a vacuum”.
Guterres’s comments, at a UN Security Council meeting., sparked outrage from Israel, whose ambassador, Gilad Erdan asked the UN boss to resign, accusing Guterres of justifying terrorism. Israel has since said it will refuse visas to UN officials.
While Guterres condemned the Hamas attacks, he added, “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.”
So what has the UN’s role been in the war that broke out on October 7? Here’s a snapshot:
- Tuesday’s Security Council meeting was not the first time Guterres demanded a ceasefire in the region.
- On October 7, Guterres condemned the Hamas attacks. He expressed concern for the civilians and urged that all diplomatic efforts are made to avoid an escalation of violence.
- He repeated this on October 9, appealing to end “the vicious cycle of bloodshed, hatred and polarisation.”
- He further urged both sides and other bodies that are involved on October 11 to avoid further conflagration. He also called for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza.
- He reiterated his appeal for the release of hostages and additionally requested that Israel allow humanitarian aid access into the Gaza Strip on October 15, adding that these actions should not become bargaining chips.
- On October 18 after the bombing of the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire in the region, condemning the collective punishment of Palestinians. On October 20, the UN chief visited the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
- Tuesday marked the fourth meeting of the UN Security Council, where 15 ambassadors of countries convened to discuss the violence that escalated starting October 7.
- Two resolutions proposed in these four meetings have failed: the first one was proposed by Russia which did not get enough votes whereas the second one drafted by Brazil was vetoed by the US.
- Thousands of Gaza residents have fled their homes and have sought refuge in 64 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools.
- Due to their affiliation with the UN, these schools were considered safe spaces for refuge.
- However, schools are no longer safe. According to UNRWA, at least several schools in Gaza have suffered damage from Israeli bombing.
- The UN’s World Health Organization has been involved in getting medical supplies into the besieged Gaza Strip through the Rafah border.
- But the aid entering Gaza is not enough for the residents, experts have said, and has been facing delays since Israel is inspecting it.
- The aid does not include fuel and the fuel shortage is especially alarming as it threatens the functioning of hospitals and UNRWA in Gaza.
- Guterres has called the aid “a drop of aid in an ocean of need”.
- Guterres has said on multiple occasions that international humanitarian law was being violated in the war between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas.
- These statements have been echoed by several world leaders.
- China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that while every country has the right to self-defence, they should adhere to international law and protect civilians.
- Chilean President Gabriel Boric echoed this while condemning the Hamas attack.
- In a statement, Venezuela said the conflict is a result of Palestinian people being unable to find their space in international law, urging the UN to fulfil its role as the guarantor of international peace.
- The UN has not yet devised a comprehensive way to enforce international humanitarian law and has had a poor track record of success.
- There is also a history of the US blocking UN resolutions critical of Israel through its veto power.