America’s Envoy to the United Nations Gets ‘Honest’ With Security Council About the Fate of Hamas’s Hostages

The plight of Israeli hostages held at Gaza receives a hearing — finally — at Turtle Bay.

AP/Craig Ruttle
The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, speaks after a vote to abstain as the United Nations Security Council passed a cease-fire resolution for Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at UN headquarters, March 25, 2024. AP/Craig Ruttle

“Let’s be honest,” America’s envoy to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, declared at a semi-official Security Council meeting she hosted on Thursday dedicated to “Condemning Hostage-Taking in Israel on October 7 as a Psychological Tool of Terrorism.” She added that the “plight of these hostages has not received the attention it deserves from the UN Security Council. That needs to change.”

That meeting marked the first time the United Nations’s most powerful body asked that hostages be released since March, when it passed a resolution calling for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs.”

Council members gathered under the aegis of what is known as an “Arria formula” — an informal meeting of willing members not recorded in the official council annals. Arria meetings are called when some of the council members oppose the gathering, and are conducted in a UN conference room outside the Security Council’s formal hall. 

The March resolution, as well as all of Council’s Middle East meetings since, have mostly concentrated on humanitarian issues relating to Gaza’s Palestinian Arab civilians. The more than a dozen member states present at the meeting on Thursday echoed calls for “a lasting ceasefire” and demanded that Hamas release the 132 hostages still held in Gaza from more than twenty countries.

“We must press the Security Council to speak with one voice as it has with other aspects of the Gaza conflict,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said, “and unequivocally condemn Hamas for its terrorism and hostage taking on October 7.” 

A mother of one of the remaining 132 hostages in Hamas’s hands, Ayelet Samerano, pointed to a 2019 UN Security Council resolution, which requires member states to return remains and persons reported missing. “You are seeking a ceasefire agreement, and I remind you, you must demand the implementation of this resolution to return the person reported missing before reading the ceasefire agreement you wish for.”

Last week, the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant some of the rights accorded to states to the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, says that move is in clear violation of the UN Charter, since admitting membership can only be done upon a Security Council recommendation.

Mr. Erdan has repeatedly demanded the Council advance resolutions and practical steps to pressure Hamas to release the hostages. He has also urged the Security Council to declare Hamas a terrorist organization and impose international sanctions imposed on the leaders of Hamas.

“If the Council does not apply pressure and does not exact a price from Hamas, then the terror of kidnappings will spread throughout the world,” Mr. Erdan said in a statement ahead of the meeting, “just like terror through hijacking airplanes became a global phenomenon.”


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