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Israel’s Foreign Minister Demands UN Designate Hamas a Terror Organization

Israel Katz, Foreign Minister to the United Nations points at family members of hostages in the audience during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, at U.N. headquarters in New York, March 11, 2024.
Israel Katz, Foreign Minister to the United Nations points at family members of hostages in the audience during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, at U.N. headquarters in New York, March 11, 2024.

Israel’s foreign minister demanded Monday that the U.N. Security Council designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and impose “heavy sanctions.”

“I am demanding from the Security Council of the United Nations to put as much pressure as possible on the Hamas organization to release immediately and unconditionally all the kidnapped hostages,” Israel Katz said.

The council would have to agree in a resolution to take such a step. Currently, several council members, including the United States, Britain and Japan, have designated Hamas a terror group in their domestic legislation.

Katz addressed a meeting of the 15-nation Security Council requested by the United States, France and Britain to discuss a report by Pramila Patten, the U.N. special representative of the secretary-general, on sexual violence in conflict.

Patten and a team of nine technical experts conducted a two-week mission to Israel from January 29 to February 14 and found “clear and convincing information” that Hamas had carried out sexual violence, including rape, against victims of the October 7 terror attacks inside Israel.

At least 1,200 people were killed that day, some victims of sexual violence before their deaths.

Patten’s report also concluded that such violence could be continuing against hostages in captivity.

“Today, each and every one of you members of the Security Council have the opportunity to save 134 innocent lives,” Katz said of the remaining hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups. “By doing so, you will show the world that the Security Council can be a shining light of justice and hope for all people. It is in your hands.”

Some of the hostages' families sat behind Katz in the council chamber.

Katz, who was at the U.N. for the first time since becoming foreign minister in January, criticized the U.N. for being silent “for too long” on Hamas’ actions, saying in meetings since October 7, “The U.N. never condemned nor disapproved these Hamas brutal crimes.”

While the Security Council has not issued a formal condemnation in the name of the council, most council members have individually and repeatedly condemned the October 7 attacks in public meetings. So have Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the president of the General Assembly, and senior officials of the organization.

Earlier Monday, Guterres reiterated his call for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages both to the press and in a meeting of hundreds of delegates gathered to discuss women’s rights.

He also reiterated his appeal for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, which Israel opposes.

Scathing letter

Since the terror attacks, Israeli officials have been highly critical of the United Nations, its agency that assists Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA, and of Guterres himself. Katz did not meet with the U.N. chief Monday and sent him a scathing letter, seen by VOA, in which the Israeli foreign minister accuses Guterres of “allowing [the U.N.] to become an epicenter of antisemitism and anti-Israel incitement” during his tenure.

Hours before the United Nations published Patten’s report on March 4, Israeli officials took issue with it on social media. Katz recalled his U.N. ambassador to Israel for consultations and accused the U.N. of trying “to silence” Patten’s report — a claim she dismissed at the council meeting.

“I must be clear and categorical: There has been no attempt by the secretary-general to silence my report or suppress its findings,” she said. “On the contrary, I received his full support politically, logistically and financially, and he also gave clear instructions for the public release of my report and its immediate transmission to the Security Council.”

In the Israeli foreign minister’s letter, he blamed the secretary-general for what he characterized as indifference to the report’s contents and appeared to accuse him of being antisemitic.

“Your reluctance to lead a decisive international stance against these atrocities, instead of fixating criticism on Israel — a nation in self-defense after a barbaric massacre — signals a distressing bias,” Katz wrote. “If the victims would not have been of Jewish or Israeli dissent, your office would have responded in a much [more] vigorous way.”

A U.N. official told VOA that the content of Katz’s letter “in no way reflects the reality of who Antonio Guterres is and what he has been doing as secretary-general since October 7.”

Patten told the council that her team could not verify some reports of rape and sexual abuse on October 7, including a widely reported case of a pregnant woman living on Kibbutz Be’eri, whose womb was allegedly torn open, and her fetus stabbed before they both died.

The U.N. team also visited Ramallah in the West Bank to hear information about allegations of conflict-related sexual violence carried out against Palestinians following October 7.

“While I did not receive any reports of rape, interlocutors raised with me instances of sexual violence in the context of detention of male and female Palestinians such as invasive body searches; unwanted touching of intimate areas; beatings, including in the genital areas; threats of rape against women and threats of rape against female family members — wives, sisters, daughters — in the case of men; and inappropriate strip searches and prolonged forced nudity of detainees,” she told council members.

The Palestinian envoy said the council had shown “unprecedented reactivity” convening a briefing on a report released one week ago and had not shown similar speed over the years on reports related to abuses of Palestinians.

“We hope that this meeting marks a change in this attitude and that more attention will be given by the council to this matter in an unbiased manner,” Riyad Mansour said.