MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
UN chief Guterres invokes Article 99 of UN charter to press for ceasefire in Gaza
António Guterres directly invoked his most powerful diplomatic tool for the first time since taking charge of the global body in 2017.
United Nations chief António Guterres stepped up his calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, invoking a rarely used power to press the Security Council over a crisis he said was “fast deteriorating into a catastrophe”.
Writing to the Security Council on Wednesday, Guterres said he expected public order in Gaza “to completely break down soon”, preventing even the limited aid delivery that is possible now.
“An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement” of Gaza’s population into neighbouring countries, he said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War
Guterres sent the letter under Article 99 of the UN’s charter, which allows the secretary-general to bring any issue seen as threatening international peace to the Security Council’s attention, the UN said. It was the first time he directly invoked his most powerful diplomatic tool since taking charge of the global body in 2017, and the first time the office has explicitly invoked the article since 1971.
The UN’s latest call for a halt comes as Israeli troops push deeper into the south of the Gaza Strip and battle Hamas militants. The two-month-old conflict began when Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people, according to the Israeli government. Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground attack since then has killed more than 16,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the US and European Union.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a briefing with other members of his war Cabinet, rebuffed mounting pressure to halt the military campaign in the southern Gaza Strip, vowing to press on until Hamas is eradicated.
Many Palestinians escaped the initial Israeli onslaught, which was concentrated in northern Gaza, by fleeing to the south of the territory. That has increased the risks to civilians, now that the south is also under attack.
“The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region,” Guterres said in his letter.
The Security Council on 15 November approved a resolution calling for humanitarian pauses in Israel’s campaign and the release of hostages held by Hamas. A truce was implemented about a week later, but fighting resumed on 1 December when the sides failed to agree on an extension. DM