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In rare move, UN chief invokes Article 99 of Charter over Israel’s war on Gaza

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter not used in decades, in a rare move to formally warn the UN Security Council of global danger from Israel’s brutal war on the besieged Gaza Strip.

In a letter to the UNSC on Wednesday, Guterres invoked the rarely-used Article 99, his equivalent of pushing the panic button, saying he believed the situation in the war-ravaged Palestinian territory “may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

“I've just invoked Art.99 of the UN Charter - for the 1st time in my tenure as Secretary-General. Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared,” Guterres said on X.

Article 99 states that the UN chief “may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Israel launched the war on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas waged the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to the Israeli regime's decades-long suppression and devastation against Palestinians.

Over 16,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them women and children, and more than 43,000 others injured since the onset of the current US-backed war.

“Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds”, Guterres said in his letter, adding 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.”

“We are simply unable to meet those in need inside Gaza,” the UN chief further said, warning that they are facing “a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system.”

The move by Guterres means that he has called for a vote and a resolution against the war and in favor of peace in Gaza by the 15-member UNSC, as the UN’s most powerful body.

In a statement to journalists along with the letter at the UN Headquarters on Wednesday, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stressed that this was the first time Guterres had felt compelled to invoke Article 99, since taking office in 2017.

Dujarric also explained that Guterres was taking the “dramatic constitutional move … given the scale of the loss of human life in Gaza and Israel, in such a short amount of time.”

“I think it’s arguably the most important invocation. In my opinion, the most powerful tool that he [the Secretary-General] has,” Dujarric added.

According to the UN, around 80 percent of inhabitants of Gaza are displaced and more than 1.1 million are seeking refuge in UN Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) shelters.

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