Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday denounced UN chief Antonio Guterres over his criticism of Israel’s Gaza campaign, as Cohen recounted graphic details of Hamas attacks on civilians.
“Mr. Secretary-General, in what world do you live?” Cohen told Guterres at a Security Council session on the crisis.
Cohen later told reporters that he had canceled a meeting with Guterres.
The United Nations leader earlier had alleged “clear violations” of international law as Israel pounds Gaza in response to the October 7 assault by Hamas and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Guterres also said that the Hamas attacks did not occur “in a vacuum,” pointing to “56 years of suffocating occupation” endured by the Palestinians.
“How you can agree to a ceasefire with someone who swore to kill and destroy your own existence?” Cohen said in English.
Rejecting tying the violence to the occupation, Cohen said Israel gave Gaza to the Palestinians “to the last millimeter” with its withdrawal in 2005.
Israel shortly afterward imposed a blockade of the impoverished territory, in place ever since, after Hamas took power, and it still occupies the West Bank.
Israel’s outspoken ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, called on Guterres to resign — writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the UN chief has “expressed an understanding for terrorism and murder.”
A spokesman for Guterres said the secretary-general would go ahead with a meeting Tuesday with representatives of families held captive by Hamas in Gaza.
He will attend in the presence of an Israeli mission representative but not Cohen, the UN spokesman said.