Guterres invokes UN Charter article in new push for UNSC to declare ceasefire in war-torn Gaza

: Resorting to a rarely used article of the UN Charter, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on the Security Council to “press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza and unite in a call for a full humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a letter to the Council, the UN chief invoked Article 99, contained in Chapter XV of the Charter.

It says that the UN chief “may bring to attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

In a statement to reporters along with the letter, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that this was the first time Guterres had felt compelled to invoke Chapter 99, since taking office in 2017.

Dujarric explained that the UN chief was taking the step “given the scale of the loss of human life in Gaza and Israel, in such a short amount of time”.

The letter was sent to the President of the Security Council, Jose Javier De la Gasca Lopez Dominguez of Ecuador, in New York late on Wednesday morning.

Since October 7, Israel’s ongoing bombardment and ground operation into the Gaza Strip, the Security Council passed one resolution in mid-November, after four failed attempts to find consensus previously, calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses”.

Following a week-long pause in hostilities during which some of the 240 hostages being held by militants in Gaza were exchanged for Palestinian prisoners, fighting began again on 1 December, leading the Secretary-General to register his deep regret.

In his letter to the Council president, Guterres said the more than eight weeks of fighting overall had “created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” as he called for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

As Israel continues to target Hamas fighters, he said civilians throughout the Strip face grave danger, with over 15,000 reportedly killed, over 40 per cent of them children.

Around 80 per cent of Gazans are displaced, over 1.1 million seeking refuge in UN Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) shelters.

Guterres said there is simply no effective protection for civilians and nowhere is safe.

“Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds”, he added, saying that amid the constant bombardment of all parts of Gaza “and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon”.

Turning to the 15 November Council Resolution 2712, he said the current conditions were making it impossible to scale up humanitarian supplies, to meet the huge needs of civilians – as the resolution demands.

“We are simply unable to meet those in need inside Gaza”, he wrote, and facing “a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system.”

The consequences of that have irreversible implications for Palestinians and the peace and security of the entire region, he said.

“Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost. The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis.

“I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared. This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm.”

He stressed that with a ceasefire, there was hope “and humanitarian assistance can be delivered in a safe and timely manner”.