While mourning the death of an Indian nurse in Israel, India’s Permanent Representative T. S. Tirumurti on Sunday condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza that killed her.
Speaking at a rare Security Council meeting held on a Sunday, he, however, also reiterated India’s support for the Palestinian cause and condemned the retaliatory attacks by Israel.
Soumya Santosh, who is from Kerala, was killed in Ashkelon inside Israel by the rocket launched reportedly by the Iran-backed Hamas organisation from Gaza last week. She was working as a caregiver for the elderly.
The Council met in a virtual session as the situation in the Israel-Palestine-Gaza region spiralled into a violent crisis, with reports that before the session, Israeli air strikes had killed at least 40 people, some of them children.
At least four people were killed in Israel as some Hamas rockets pierced Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.
Referring to Santosh, Tirumurti said: “India has also lost one of her nationals living in Israel in this rocket fire — a caregiver in Ashkelon. We deeply mourn her demise along with all other civilians who have lost their lives in the current cycle of violence.”
“The indiscriminate rocket firings from Gaza targeting the civilian population in Israel, which we condemn, and the retaliatory strikes into Gaza, have caused immense suffering, and resulted in deaths,” he said.
While reiterating New Delhi’s “strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-State solution”, Tirumurti also expressed “strong condemnation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement, and destruction”.
He called for an immediate de-escalation of the situation to stop “any further slide to the brink” and the resumption of dialogue between the parties to the conflict.
He said that Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of Indians and added that attempts should not be made to change the status quo in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.
He mentioned the presence of an India-associated in Jerusalem’s old city. New Delhi had restored the Al Zawiyya Al Hindiyya, the Indian hospice associated with Indian Sufi saint Baba Farid, he said.
The holy places in Jersualem, including the Haram al-Sharif, also known as the Temple Mount, that is sacred to Muslims, should be protected, he added.
The triggers for the current wave of violence is the attempt by some Israelis to evict Arabs from homes in East Jerusalem and the entry of Israeli security forces into the Temple Mount.
At the UNSC session presided over China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately. Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop. I appeal to all parties to heed this call.”
“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole,” he warned.
He drew attention to the Israeli bombing of the offices of the US news agency Associated Press and Qatari TV network Al Jazeera in Gaza City and said: “Journalists must be allowed to work free of fear and harassment.”
“I am appalled by the attack on a refugee camp in Gaza, in which 10 members of one family were killed. Humanitarian installations must be protected,” he said, but added: “Israeli civilians live in fear of rockets launched from Gaza.”
Holding the meeting on a Sunday itself showed the isolation of the administration of US President Joe Biden which had vainly tried to stop the Council from discussing the situation. After blocking a session on Friday, it was forced by other members to agree to the meeting on Sunday.
Biden is facing a split in his party over his Israel policy with a vociferous group of Democrats condemning his backing for that country, even as many in the party continue their strong support for Israel.
US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that “the United States has been working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict” and is “intensively engaged with Israeli, Egyptian, and Qatari officials, as well as the Special Coordinator (of the UN, Tor Wennesland) and his team — all of whom are working to define and establish conditions for a sustainable calm”.
In a break from the four years of former President Donald Trump, she, however, called for an end to “evictions” – including in East Jerusalem – demolitions, and settlement construction east of the 1967 lines”.
“Critically, all parties need to uphold and respect the historic status quo at the holy sites,” she added.
Without condemning any of the attacks by either side, Thomas-Greenfield said: “We’ve also been alarmed by violence impacting journalists and medical personnel, whose roles are crucial and must be protected and respected.”
“It’s time to end the cycle of violence. The United States calls on Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza to immediately halt rocket attacks and other provocations. We also are deeply concerned about the ongoing intercommunal violence within mixed communities in Israel. We urge all parties to avoid actions that undermine a peaceful future.”
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed @arulouis)