United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is seen at a conference.

(Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

'An Absolute Outrage': Israel to Deny Visas to UN Officials Over Secretary-General's Gaza Remarks

Human rights advocates called on the U.S., U.K., and other European countries to take action against Israel's "intimidation" tactic.

Israeli authorities were accused of intimidation tactics "fitting of an authoritarian state" after they announced U.N. officials would no longer be permitted in Israel—a retaliatory step taken after comments by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres about the ongoing bombardment of civilian targets in Gaza.

The country's ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, told Army Radio on Wednesday that the government will "refuse to issue visas to U.N. representatives" following Guterres' remark that the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,400 people, did not happen "in a vacuum."

At the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, Guterres once again "condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented October 7 acts of terror by Hamas in Israel," and said that "nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring, and kidnapping of civilians."

"The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation," Guterres added. "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."

Erdan responded by saying Israel has already rescinded the visa of the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, and would do the same for Guterres and other officials. He also called on the secretary-general to resign.

"The time has come to teach them a lesson," he said.

Guterres' comments came a week after he joined the international call for a cease-fire in Gaza, which has been led by international human rights groups including Israel-based B'Tselem, Amnesty International, and Jewish-led U.S. groups IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace.

The U.N. chief repeated his strong condemnation of both Israel and Hamas on social media following the speech, but Israel still rejected his criticism of its bombardment of Gaza, where at least 6,546 Palestinians have been killed since October 7. Health officials said the healthcare system is now "completely out of service" as of Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported, and Oxfam warned that in addition to repeated airstrikes which have targeted areas that Palestinians have been ordered to evacuate to, Israel is using "starvation as a weapon."

On Wednesday, Guterres said he was "shocked" by the "misrepresentation" of his remarks by Israeli officials including Minister Benny Gantz, who called the secretary-general a "terror apologist."

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Sophie McNeill noted Israel has previously rescinded the visas of high-ranking U.N. officials "who dared speak out regarding Israeli violations," and called the tactic "an absolute outrage."

Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned that shutting out U.N. human rights officials "is bad for all aid groups assisting a million children under bombardment and in crossfire," and called on countries with strong influences on Israel, including the United States and United Kingdom, to speak out against Israel's decision.

British labor leader Howard Beckett noted that the strong support of leaders such as U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and U.K. Labour Leader Keir Starmer—even in the face of thousands of civilian deaths from Israel's onslaught—has emboldened Israel.

"Israel believes it can make the U.N. an enemy," Beckett said. "Why? Because of Biden, Sunak, and Starmer."

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