U.N. chief says Israel, Gaza fighting ‘utterly appalling’

Smoke rises from a building after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza May 11, 2021. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an immediate end to fighting. 

Opening the first public meeting of the 15-member U.N. Security Council on the conflict, Guterres said the United Nations is “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate cease-fire” and called on them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.”

The death toll in Gaza jumped to 188 overnight, including 55 children, amid an intensive Israeli air and artillery barrage since the fighting erupted last Monday.

Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, in thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

“Each time Israel hears a foreign leader speak of its right to defend itself it is further emboldened to continue murdering entire families in their sleep,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki told the Security Council.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Israel’s response to indiscriminate attacks by Hamas strictly adhered to international law and that the country was taking “unparalleled steps to prevent civilian casualties.”

“Israel uses its missiles to protect its children. Hamas uses children to protect its missiles,” Erdan said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States had made clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it was ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire” to end the violence.

“The United States has been working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict,” Thomas-Greenfield told the 15-member council.

“Because we believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security,” she said.

Washington – a strong ally of Israel – has been isolated at the United Nations over its objection to a public statement by the Security Council on the worst violence between Israel and the Palestinians in years because it worries it could harm behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

“We call upon the US to shoulder its responsibilities, take a just position, and together with most of the international community support the Security Council in easing the situation,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who chaired Sunday’s meeting as China is council president for May.

Arab Push for More U.S. Engagement

The truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have so far offered no sign of progress.

Beyond the current flare up in the conflict, the 22-member Cairo-based Arab League called on Biden’s administration “to engage in a more active and influential and deeper way in the Middle East peace process,” Arab League U.N. envoy Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz told the Security Council.

He said they wanted to see “an engagement that would dispel delusions created by the past U.S. administration that Israel would get everything while Palestinians would get nothing,” referring to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital, all territory captured by Israel in 1967. However, under a failed peace proposal by Trump, Washington would have recognized Jewish settlements in occupied territory as part of Israel.

(Esta Media Network/Reuters)

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