HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,

DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

FRIDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2019

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Gaza

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, responded to an attack in Gaza today, claimed by Israel, which reportedly killed eight family members, saying that there is no justification to attacking civilians in Gaza or elsewhere.

He said his heartfelt condolences go to the Al-Sawarkeh family, and he wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.  He calls on Israel to move swiftly with its investigation.

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**Questions and Answers

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Question:  Thank you.  I have a few questions.  I hope you will bear with me.  First about the family of Al‑Sawarkeh — a family of eight have been obliterated by six missiles, hit by Israel, including five children, two women and the father.  No statement came out, except I know Mladenov expressed sadness and, quote, for Israel to investigate.  But there is no condemnation.  This is a crime.  Is it a crime of the crime against, you know, a war crime or a crime against humanity?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are opposed to all killings of civilians.  In this case, in the case of the Al‑Sawarkeh family, it’s clearly a tragedy.  The Secretary‑General expresses his heartfelt condolence to the Al‑Sawarkeh family and wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured; and he calls on Israel to move swiftly with the investigation.

Question:  But where is the word condemnation?  I’m looking for a word condemnation.  A family of eight had been killed while they were sleeping.  Israel admitted; Israel admitted it was a mistake.  Why there is no statement to condemn this crime?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have consistently condemned all attacks on civilians that lead to their deaths.

Question:  Again, this is not a satisfactory answer, because this is a crime against humanity.  It’s a war crime, a family who are sleeping, Israel admitted that, and there is no statement to condemn?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, it’s a little odd to me that first you say it’s not satisfactory if we don’t condemn it; then I say from this podium that we do condemn all the attacks on civilians and then you say it’s still not satisfactory.  I actually just was doing what you said I wasn’t doing.

Question:  But the statement, I’m sorry, I don’t want to argue, I’m looking for a statement regarding this family using the word “condemn”, that is not there, that is what I’m saying.  Now, I go to another issue.  I mean, the foreign minister of Palestine, Palestinian foreign minister, issued a statement criticizing Mladenov for his biased statement, claiming that this wave of escalation, almost putting the blame on the victim.  It started when Israel attacked and killed a Jihad leader.  It’s not the Palestinian who started it.  But, however, his statement almost put the blame squarely on the Palestinians, and the foreign minister issued that statement.  Did you read the statement of the foreign minister?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t share that particular interpretation.  Our objective, the objective of the Secretary‑General, of the United Nations, and of Nickolay Mladenov, is to make sure that calm can be restored in and around Gaza.  Now, it’s up to those concerned parties to live up to the responsibilities of sustaining the agreement.  The Secretary‑General urges all to refrain from any act that could lead to further escalation.  He supports all efforts that contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of relevant UN resolutions and international law.

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Question:  Thank you.  On 6 November, Mr. Mladenov met with the family of Hadar Goldin.  His remains are held captive in Gaza, and he called for their release on a humanitarian basis and he said no one should live with such pain.  I agree with him totally.  Nobody should be kept captive.  But does he know that there are 32 captive Palestinians held by Israel?  Did he take initiatives to visit one of the families of those who have… their children are held by Israelis?

Deputy Spokesman:  He has made clear his sympathies for all people who have suffered, whether Palestinian or Israeli, by the fighting.  And you can just look to what he said today about the Al‑Sawarkeh family.  And, again, his thoughts go to all of the families of the victims and he cares about all of their needs.

Question:  But when he visits one side and not the other, he shows sympathy with one family and take picture with them, but he doesn’t visit any of the other side, is that… do you call that objectivity?  Do you agree that this is, could be interpreted as a biased position of the Special Coordinator of the peace process in the Middle East?

Deputy Spokesman:  On different occasions, Mr. Mladenov and his office have reached out to families who have been bereaved on either side and his… and their sympathies are with both.

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For information media. Not an official record.