Israel rejects calls for ceasefire and vows to ‘destroy Hamas’

The Israeli foreign minister told the UN Hamas were 'the new Nazis' and vowed to destroy the group to the last man.

Israel rejects calls for ceasefire and vows to ‘destroy Hamas’
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen speaks during a United Nations (UN) Security Council meeting on the conflict in Middle East at the UN headquarters in New York City on October 24, 2023. Fighting has raged for more than two weeks in the Gaza Strip after Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials. More than 5,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across Gaza in relentless Israeli bombardments in retaliation for the attacks, the Hamas-run health ministry said on October 23, 2023. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told the UN his country would destroy Hamas (Picture: AFP)

Israel has vowed once again to destroy Hamas, rejecting calls from the United Nations chief, the Palestinians and many countries at a high-level UN meeting for a ceasefire, and declaring that the war in Gaza is not only its war but ‘the war of the free world’.

Foreign minister Eli Cohen also dismissed calls for ‘proportionality’ in the country’s response to Hamas’s surprise attacks on Israel on October 7 which killed 1,400 people and has since led to more than 5,700 Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip, according to its Health Ministry.

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‘Tell me, what is a proportionate response for killing of babies, for rape (of) women and burn them, for beheading a child?’ he asked. ‘How can you agree to a ceasefire with someone who swore to kill and destroy your own existence?’

NIR OZ, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 24: Israeli soldiers patrol near the Gaza border as the clash between Israeli army and Palestinian factions continues in Nir Oz, Israel on October 24, 2023. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Mr Cohen rejected calls for a ceasefire and said the correct response is ‘a total destruction to the last one of Hamas’ (Picture: Getty)

He told the UN Security Council that the proportionate response to the October 7 massacre is ‘a total destruction to the last one of Hamas’, calling the extremist group ‘the new Nazis’.

He added: ‘It is not only Israel’s right to destroy Hamas. It’s our duty.’

Mr Cohen called the Hamas attacks ‘a wake-up call for the entire free world’ against extremism, and he urged ‘the civilised world to stand united behind Israel to defeat Hamas’.

He warned that today it is Israel, and tomorrow Hamas and the attackers ‘will be at everyone’s doorstep’, starting with the West.

Mr Cohen accused Qatar of financing Hamas and said the fate of the more than 200 hostages taken from Israel, some of whose families came to the UN meeting, was in the hands of its emir.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki demanded an end to the Israeli attacks.

‘We are here today to stop the killing, to stop… the ongoing massacres being deliberately and systematically and savagely perpetrated by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian civilian population,’ he said.

‘Over two million Palestinians are on a survival mission every day, every night.’

Under international law, he said, ‘it is our collective human duty to stop them’.

Mr al-Maliki warned that more attacks and killings and weapons and alliances will not make Israel safer: ‘Only peace will.’

‘For those actively engaged to avoid an even greater humanitarian catastrophe and regional spillover, it must be clear that this can only be achieved by putting an immediate end to the Israeli war launched against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,’ he said. ‘Stop the bloodshed.’

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres had opened the monthly meeting on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which has turned into a major event with ministers from the war’s key parties and a dozen other countries flying to New York – warning that ‘the situation in the Middle East is growing more dire by the hour’.

The UN chief said the risk of the war spreading through the region is increasing as societies splinter and tensions threaten to boil over.

He called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to deliver desperately needed food, water, medicine and fuel. He also appealed ‘to all to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even farther’.

Mr Guterres stressed that the rules of war must be obeyed.

He said the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify ‘the horrifying and unprecedented October 7 acts of terror’ by Hamas in Israel and demanded the immediate release of all hostages.

But Mr Guterres also stressed that ‘those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people’.

He expressed deep concern at ‘the clear violations of international humanitarian law’, calling Israel’s constant bombardment of Gaza and the level of destruction and civilian casualties ‘alarming’.

Protecting civilians ‘is paramount in any armed conflict’, he said.

Without naming Hamas, the UN chief stressed that ‘protecting civilians can never mean using them as human shields’.

Mr Guterres also criticised Israel without naming it, saying: ‘Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than one million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.’

Israeli soldiers take part in a military drill aboard Merkava tanks near the border with Lebanon in the upper Galilee region of northern Israel on October 24, 2023 amid increasing cross-border fire between Hezbollah and Israel. The Iran-backed Shiite group has launched increasing attacks on Israel, raising fears it intends to open a Lebanese front in support of ally Hamas. (Photo by Jalaa MAREY / AFP) (Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)
The correct international response to the incident is still being debated by the UN (Picture: Getty)

Mr Cohen criticised the secretary-general’s remarks. After being told by a reporter that Mr Guterres stood by his statement, the Israeli minister said: ‘There is no cause for this, and shame on him.’

Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan went further, taking issue especially with Mr Guterres’s statement that it is important to recognise that ‘the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum’.

He accused the secretary-general of having lost ‘all morality and impartiality’ and called for his resignation.

The US is pushing for adoption of a resolution that would condemn the Hamas attacks in Israel and violence against civilians, and reaffirm Israel’s right to self-defence. There were some expectations that it might go to a vote on Tuesday, but diplomats said it was still being negotiated.

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