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Israel to ban UN officials after sec-general says Hamas attack didn’t happen ‘in a vacuum’

Protesters raise signs in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as Egyptian army officers and bodyguards escort United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to his vehicle during his visit to oversee preparations for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border in the east of North Sinai province on Oct. 20, 2023. (Kerolos Salah/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Israel on Wednesday said it will deny visas to United Nations officials “to teach them a lesson,” following recent comments by the U.N. chief about the Israel-Hamas war.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres angered Israeli officials over his remarks about the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following the deadly attack on Israel earlier this month.

Addressing the U.N. Security Council in New York, Guterres said that while he “unequivocally” condemned “the horrifying and unprecedented … acts of terror by Hamas in Israel,” it was also important to recognize those attacks “did not happen in a vacuum.”

“The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres continued. “They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.”

While nothing can justify Hamas’ “appalling attacks,” that violence also can’t “justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said, while repeating calls for a cease-fire.

“The relentless bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, the level of civilian casualties, and the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods continue to mount and are deeply alarming,” Guterres said.

Guterres’ remarks were fiercely criticized by Israeli officials, prompting Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., to call for the U.N. chief’s resignation, saying he was “tolerating” and “justifying” terrorism.

Speaking on Israeli Army Radio early on Wednesday, Erdan said because of the remarks, “we will refuse to issue visas to U.N. representatives.”

“We have already refused a visa for undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths,” he said. “The time has come to teach them a lesson.”


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