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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

UN chief Guterres invokes Article 99 of UN charter to press for ceasefire in Gaza

UN chief Guterres invokes Article 99 of UN charter to press for ceasefire in Gaza
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. (Photo: Mahmoud Khaled / COP28 via Getty Images)

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.

Read more: Israel rebuffs calls to halt Gaza war as forces move south

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

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  • Respect for Truth says:

    “A truce was implemented about a week later, but fighting resumed on 1 December when the sides failed to agree on an extension.” – It seems that DM cannot bring themselves to report truthfully on the ceases fire being broken by Hamas.

    • Bennie Morani says:

      I haven’t seen any evidence of DM denying Hamas’s role in the conflict. And it completely true that there are thousands of people being slaughtered by Israel right now. This is the compelling fact that we have to confront, even as we condemn Hamas’s barbarism.

      • Lee Major says:

        This is a fact. In addition, the mighty military is dropping bombs on civilians en masse, including White Phosphorus. It is a disproportionate response and de facto genocide now.

  • Natalie Dikman says:

    One side didn’t abide to the terms of the ceasefire agreement. One. Hamas. Report the facts.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981. Member of the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazi Party’s original paramilitary wing, in his youth. That’s the standard these guys have to aspire to.

  • david.hotz says:

    These comments disappoint me. Civilian hostages are being held by hamas. Why should Israel be forced to enter a ceasefire when they have not been returned nor its security guaranteed. Until the UN can do both but certainly the former… its in no position to dictate anything. Deeply tragic as this conflict is and the suffering horrendous the UNs position is weak. Billions targeted for unwra as the un is aware got diverted to building a military infrastructure . The un is unfortunately complicit in what has unfolded.

    • Bennie Morani says:

      The influence and power of the brutal Hamas in Gaza is a terrible consequence of Israel’s refusal to negotiate or make peace. And luckily for Israel, they don’t even have to divert aid to acquire weapons. They are given the arms for their murderous campaign on a plate.

  • dexter m says:

    I wondered why he would take this extreme step. My answer after SG Boutros Boutros Ghali was castigated/blamed after the Rwanda genocide for not raising it formally (though he did raise the issue informally/private with security council) . Though western intelligence services also had this info, Since UN peacekeepers where on the ground and raised the alarm. History blames UN and the SG for not stopping the genocide in Rwanda. Now with UN staff on the ground in GAZA and the information relayed to him. If security council does not adhere to his recommendation all blame for whatever happens thereafter will be on Security Council members that veto and not on the SG or the UN .

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      The UN lost any credibility long before Ghali.

      Where the country with the world’s most executions (Islamic Republic of Iran) can be the current Chair of its “Human Rights Council”, speaks for itself.

      Between 2015 – 2022, the UN General Assembly has adopted 208 resolutions in total. 140 resolutions on Israel alone, and 68 on the rest of the world’s countries, combined. As they say in the UN – if it ain’t about the Jews, it ain’t gonna make the news.

      • dexter m says:

        Do you also disapprove UN Resolution 181(11)

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          If we all had the power of hindsight – we could have all asked for different things couldn’t we? The UN has been trying to walk back 181(11) since 1947 hasn’t it? Do I disapprove? In hindsight – I’d have gone for the Jewish biblical borders instead (much bigger), and in every war Israel has fought since I’d have kept every inch of land won. But hey, you asked what I thought ….

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