“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 while calling for a cease-fire—which Israeli officials have said is a non-starter. “Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs.”
The U.N., he added, also has “a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis.“ Gaza’s health care system ”is collapsing,“ Mr. Guterres said, adding that ”there is no effective protection of civilians.”
It is the first time the U.N. secretary-general invoked Article 99 since he took office in 2017, reported the AFP news agency. The Security Council has five permanent members—including the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom—and non-permanent members: Brazil, Albania, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Malta, and Japan.
Article 99 of the U.N. Charter 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.” But the United States, Israel’s top ally, has veto power in the Security Council, and Washington has not supported a cease-fire.
In mid-November, the Security Council issued a call for “extended humanitarian pauses” in Gaza, coming before Israel and Hamas stopped fighting for about a week to allow the transfer of some Israeli hostages.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it’s essential that the U.N.’s most powerful body demand a halt to the conflict following the resumption of bloodshed in Gaza after the end of a weeklong humanitarian truce on Dec. 1. “On top of the agenda is this war has to stop,” he said. “A cease-fire has to take place, and it has to take place immediately.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told reporters that the U.N. Security Council should “not get in the way of this important diplomacy going on on the ground … because we have seen some results, although not as great results as we want to see,” reported the AP.
Previously, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected international calls for a cease-fire unless all the hostages are released by Hamas. “We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he told reporters last month. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden similarly rejected those calls in November, writing in the Washington Post that a “cease-fire is not peace” due to Hamas’ ideology.
Other DetailsIsrael has vowed to dismantle Hamas and can no longer accept the terrorist group’s rule of, and its military presence in, Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Hamas and other terrorists killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took captive some 240 men, women and children in that attack.
An estimated 138 hostages remain in Gaza after more than 100 were freed during a cease-fire last week. Their plight and accounts of rape and other atrocities committed during the rampage have deepened Israel’s outrage and further galvanized support for the war.
The Gaza Health Ministry’s death toll for Palestinians tracks with a figure released this week by the Israeli military, which said about 5,000 of the dead were militants. The Israeli military has said 88 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive.
A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Daniel Hagari, said Wednesday the country’s military has broken through the defenses in northern Gaza and Khan Younis, located in Gaza’s southern region.
“In the last 48 hours, in Jabaliya, Shejaiya, and Khan Younis, we breached the defense lines. The terrorists are coming out from underground and fighting our forces. And our forces are winning in close-quarters combat. They have the upper hand,” he told the Times of Israel, adding that IDF forces are surrounding Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s home.
The Hamas leader “is not above ground, but underground,” Mr. Hagari said. “I won’t elaborate on where exactly and what we know. Our job is to get to Sinwar and kill him,” he added.