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UN chief: If I was premier, hostages’ release would be first priority

Head of Hostages and Missing Families Forum: It is the U.N.’s duty “to put international pressure on all parties involved.” 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Saint Petersburg during an interview with Russian TV, June 1, 2017. Credit: Truba7113/Shutterstock.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Saint Petersburg during an interview with Russian TV, June 1, 2017. Credit: Truba7113/Shutterstock.

The head of the United Nations told protesters outside of his home on Friday that if he were leading Israel, the return of the hostages held in Gaza would be at the top of his list of concerns.

For the 15th consecutive Friday morning, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in New York held court outside U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ private Manhattan residence, calling for him and the global body he leads to do more to free the hostages still being held by terrorists in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre.

Guterres has of late engaged in conversations with the protesters. This past Friday, he used a megaphone to tell those assembled that if he were prime minister of Portugal, as he was from 1995-2002, and an Oct. 7-like event took place under his watch, he would make the release of the hostages his first priority.

Upon displaying the symbolic dog tag he keeps in pocket showing solidarity with the hostages, a protester shouted back at Guterres, “It’s not enough. You need to do more.”

The dog tag is engraved with the words, “Our Hearts Are Held Captive in Gaza—Bring Them Home Now.”

Guterres told the protesters he was optimistic regarding the chances of a ceasefire and hostage-exchange agreement after meeting earlier in the week with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani. 

But he called both Hamas’s and Israel’s responses to a proposal unconstructive.

Omer Lubaton-Granot, head of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said, “It’s a simple equation: Get all of the hostages back now, or best-case scenario, down the line, we will get 136 body bags. The U.N.’s duty is to emphasize the importance of releasing the hostages, to put international pressure on all parties involved, and to help us with our negotiations with Qatar.”

The protesters commemorated the birthday of hostage Alon Ohel by reading a message from Alon’s family, waving yellow balloons and singing birthday songs.

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