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US demands condemnation of Hamas at UN meeting, but Security Council takes no immediate action

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting behind closed doors Sunday, with the United States demanding all 15 members strongly condemn “these heinous terrorist attacks committed by Hamas,” but they took no immediate action.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood said afterward that “a good number of countries” did condemn the Hamas attack but not all council members. He told reporters they could probably figure out one of them.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told The Associated Press the Americans tried to say during the meeting that Russia isn’t condemning the attacks, but “that’s untrue.”

“It was in my comments,” he said. “We condemn all the attacks on civilians.”

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Nebenzia said Russia’s message is: “It’s important to stop the fighting immediately, to go to a cease-fire and to meaningful negotiations, which were stalled for decades.”

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun voiced a similar position earlier, as he headed into the meeting. He said Beijing condemns all attacks on civilians, though he did not mention Hamas.

“What’s really important is to prevent the further escalation of the situation and further casualties of civilians,” Zhang said. “What’s also important is really to come back to the two-state solution.”

Wood made clear the U.S. is focused on condemning Hamas for “this unprovoked invasion and the terrorist attacks,” and said Hamas must end its “violent terrorist activity against the Israeli people.”

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Asked if it wasn’t impportant to restart talks on a two-state solution and end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian confilct, he replied: “There’ll be time for that. The time right now is we’ve got to deal with the hostage taking, the violence that is going on that’s being perpetrated by Hamas. and we’ve got to deal with first things first.”

China’s ambassador said it is important the Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, “have its voice heard.” But Russia’s Nebenzia said no country put forward a statement for the council’s consideration.

That could happen in the coming days, if differences over condemning Hamas and condemning civilian deaths can be bridged, along with agreement on possible language on ending the violence and resuming negotiations.

Malta’s U.N. ambassador, Vanessa Frazier, who called for the meeting, said she didn’t know if the council would adopt a statement, but added that any condemnation must be mostly against Hamas. “Palestinian civilians are also victims in this and Hamas put them in this position,” she said.

Council members were briefed virtually by U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland.

Nebenzia said Wennesland told the council that the situation was “precarious” and “awful” and that “people are scared on both sides.”

Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the council, said all members understand it is key for everyone to work “for calm and de-escalation,” with a priority on protecting civilians on both sides.

Wood called the situation “still fluid and very dangerous,” stressing that the Biden administration is “working hard, as I know other countries in the region are, to try to prevent this conflict from spreading.”

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Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan told reporters before the meeting that Hamas had carried out a surprise “barbaric pogrom” and accused the militant group of “blatant, documented war crimes.”

“These animal-like terrorists broke into homes gathered entire families into rooms and shot them point blank, as if they were stomping on insects,” he said. “Grandparents and the elderly, among them Holocaust survivors who endured the Nazis, were violently dragged from their homes, this time by Hamas and taken into Gaza.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, said Israel’s blockade of Gaza and repeated assaults in the territory didn’t achieve its aims of destroying Hamas’ military capabilities and ensuring security. Instead, it inflicted terrible suffering on Gaza’s civilian population, he said.

“It is time for an immediate end to the violence and the bloodshed, and it is time to end this blockade and to open a political horizon,” he said. “This is not a time to let Israel double-down on its terrible choices. This is a time to tell Israel it needs to change course — that there is a path to peace, where neither Israelis nor Palestinians are killed. And it is the one diametrically opposed to the one Israel is embarked on.”