Publish date7 Dec 2023 - 19:25
Story Code : 617289

UN chief invokes rare Article 99 over Gaza war

In a rare move, UN Secretary-General Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, forcing the Security Council to address the Gaza war, Al Jazeera reported.
UN chief invokes rare Article 99 over Gaza war
Israeli army tanks move towards the center of Khan Younis city after a night of non-stop artillery shelling and clashes around Gaza.

Senior Hamas official says “no negotiations” with Israel unless it halts its Gaza offensive; Israeli leaders pledge to press on with the war.

This is the secretary-general’s equivalent of pushing the panic button. Article 99 in the UN charter gives him the authority to call for a Security Council meeting for any topic that he views as a threat to international peace and security. And he’s doing so over Gaza.

He’s doing this as a majority of council members have expressed support for a humanitarian ceasefire. However, the council has not invoked a resolution. The United States has been very clear in its opposition. The US, as a veto-wielding member, as recently as yesterday, said it did not believe such a resolution would help the situation. It instead called for continued negotiations.

So what you are seeing from UN officials and delegations here at the UN is a full-court press to try and get a ceasefire and some relief for the people of Gaza. Attempts are under way to break the logjam and help the Gaza Palestinians who are suffering immensely.

Earlier Guterres highlighted the “complete breakdown” of public order resulting from Israel’s incessant attacks on Gaza.

On the Gaza side of the border, makeshift shelters and family homes are already overflowing and many are sleeping in the streets. On the other side, thousands of Egyptian troops have deployed to prevent any mass influx of refugees, which Egypt says would undermine its decades-old peace treaty with Israel.

The UN says some 1.87 million people – more than 80 percent of the population – have already fled their homes. Many Palestinians fear they will not be allowed to return. 

 In his letter invoking Article 99, Guterres warned he expects public order in Gaza to soon break down as the humanitarian system totally collapses.

“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,” he wrote.

“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”, said Guterres.

 Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invoked what is widely considered to be the most powerful diplomatic tool at his disposal.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which states that “the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.

The letter represents the first time Guterres has invoked the article since he took over the role of UN secretary-general on January 1, 2017.

In the letter, Guterres calls for the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared in Gaza.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living in "utter, deepening horror", the UN human rights chief said Wednesday, as he pleaded for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Volker Turk said there was a high risk of atrocity crimes being committed in such "catastrophic" humanitarian circumstances."

"Civilians in Gaza continue to be relentlessly bombarded by Israel and collectively punished -- suffering death, siege, destruction and deprivation of the most essential human needs such as food, water, lifesaving medical supplies and other essentials on a massive scale," he told a press conference.

"Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror."

He said 1.9 million of the Palestinian enclave's 2.2 million people had been displaced and were being pushed into "ever-diminishing and extremely overcrowded places in southern Gaza, in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions".

"The catastrophic situation we see unfolding in the Gaza Strip was entirely foreseeable and preventable.

"In these circumstances, there is a heightened risk of atrocity crimes," the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said.

"As an immediate step, I call for an urgent cessation of hostilities and the release of all hostages," he said, adding: "you need to come back to your senses".

Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant group's October 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities, and saw around 240 hostages taken into Gaza.

The latest toll from the Hamas-run government media office said 16,248 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, had been killed.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and free 138 hostages still held after scores were released during a short-lived truce.

Turk said he was gravely concerned by "dehumanising and inciteful statements" made by current and former Israeli officials, as well as Hamas figures.

"History has shown us where this kind of language can lead," he said.

"This is not just unacceptable, but a competent court may view such statements, in the circumstances in which they were made, as incitement to atrocity crimes."

Decrying a sharp rise in hate speech globally over the past two months -- in particular anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry -- he said political leaders using "inflammatory, toxic and hateful rhetoric... must be vigorously condemned".

Turk said the human rights crisis in the occupied West Bank was also "extremely alarming", calling for Israeli authorities to take immediate steps to end "widespread impunity" for violations.

"The only way to end the accumulative sufferings is ending the occupation and achieving the two-state solution," he said.

Turk said he had met Palestinians and Israelis who want a peaceful future for both sides, whose voices were currently not being heard.

"I hope that they will be much stronger in the future," he said.

"One thing is very clear: it cannot go back to what it was."

The Financial Times reports that the extent of devastation and destruction in northern Gaza in less than seven weeks has approached levels seen during the years-long carpet bombing of German cities during World War II.

More than 60 percent of buildings in northern Gaza have been severely damaged, the report says. Across the coastal territory, more than 300,000 residential units have been damaged or destroyed.

“Gaza will also go down as a place name denoting one of history’s heaviest conventional bombing campaigns,” FT quoted US military historian Robert Pape as saying.

The report cited the different types of munitions that the Israeli military is using against the Gaza Strip, including unguided MII7 “dumb bombs” and “earth-shaking” 2,000lb GBU-31 bombs.
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