UN Security Council to hold first meeting since Oct. 7 devoted fully to hostages in Gaza
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, briefs reporters on the situation in Gaza on Feb. 2, 2024. Photo: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

‘Behind the scenes, Israel and the U.S. worked very closely on this and Israel trusts the U.S. on this topic specifically,’ an Israeli spokesman said.

By Mike Waggenheim
May 15, 2024

(JNS) — The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to hold its first meeting since Oct. 7  that will focus solely on the hostages Hamas terrorists continue to hold captive in the Gaza Strip.

The meeting, titled “Condemning hostage-taking in Israel on Oct. 7 as a psychological tool of terrorism,” will take place at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, requested the discussion, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. envoy to the global body, pushed for it. Josh Lavine, a spokesman for the Israeli mission to the United Nations, told JNS that the meeting is a “big step.”

Israel has been highly critical of the U.N. Security Council for neglecting to focus on the plight of the hostages and focusing overwhelmingly on the concerns of civilians in Gaza.

About 20 countries are set to participate in the “Arria-formula meeting,” a relatively recent Security Council practice that is less formal. A member of the council must call for the meeting, and members of the group or groups advocating for a particular position or issue lead the meeting.

A concept note, which the U.S. mission distributed, blames Gazan terror groups, including Hamas, alone for kidnapping the hostages and for their treatment of them.

U.N. leaders and some member states have sought to qualify, and even excuse, the massacre and hostage-taking with Palestinian grievances and a broader view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Council members France and the United Kingdom are among the meeting’s 16 co-sponsors.

Lavine thanked Thomas-Greenfield. “She’s been a true friend to Israel throughout this process,” he said. “The headlines always report the bad stuff, but behind the scenes, Israel and the U.S. worked very closely on this and Israel trusts the U.S. on this topic specifically.”

Five U.S. citizens are still hostages in Gaza, among about 130 hostages kidnapped on Oct. 7. It isn’t known how many are still alive.

JNS has learned that Thomas-Greenfield wanted for months to fulfill Erdan’s request for a session focused on the hostages, but Washington held off, fearing that the content of the meeting could disrupt ongoing brokered negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire and hostage-for-security prisoner exchange deal.

The Israeli mission declined to comment on whether Washington had held off on calling for the meeting.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan at the U.N. General Assembly Hall in New York, Jan. 16, 2023. Photo: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90

Unconditional release

Thursday’s meeting will “focus on the demand that Hamas and other armed groups immediately and unconditionally release all hostages,” as well as the “long-term health and psychological impact” on the hostages and their families.

The meeting will also focus on how the Security Council can help facilitate access to those being held and how to support efforts to inform families of the condition of their loved ones in captivity.

Participating countries are also expected to discuss ways to prevent future hostage crises.

Israel’s U.N. mission invited Shoshan Haran, a Kibbutz Be’eri abductee who was released in the first ceasefire deal, and Ayelet Samerano, the mother of the late Jonathan Samerano, whose body UNRWA staff abducted, to attend the meeting.

The Security Council will finally have to look into Haran’s and Samerano’s eyes, “and realize that Israel will not stop until the hostages are released and that the correct address for applying pressure is the monstrous terrorist organization Hamas,” said Erdan.

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, former vice chair of a U.N. committee that addresses discrimination against women and an Israeli legal scholar, is listed as a session briefer. Two other briefers will be announced shortly before the event, according to the concept note.

Pramila Patten, U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, was reportedly scheduled to brief meeting participants but has since pulled out.

Patten authored a report released in March that found “clear and convincing information” to indicate that hostages held in Gaza were subjected to “sexual violence including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The report’s findings were listed in the concept note for Thursday’s meeting.

Patten’s office told Israeli media she won’t attend the meeting, though didn’t say why.

A diplomatic source told JNS that Patten was pressured to pull out of the meeting because some would see her presence as an indication that she is slanted towards Washington and Jerusalem, and because the meeting is to focus broadly on the hostages, whereas her specific purview is sexual violence in conflict. 

The meeting is expected to discuss sexual violence against the hostages.

The diplomatic source said the pressure came from someone with “sway,” but could not confirm if it came from the office of António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general, or elsewhere. A spokesman for the secretary-general referred JNS to Patten’s office, which has declined to comment.

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