The United Nations has taken the extraordinary step of invoking Article 99 of its charter for the first time in history.
In making the announcement, Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the U.N., said Wednesday that there’s a “severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza” because of the war that continues to rage between Israel and terrorist group Hamas.
Guterres wrote a letter to U.N. Security Council President Jose Javier De la Gasca Lopez Dominguez, writing he expected “public order to completely break down due to desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.”
By invoking Article 99, the secretary-general now can bring the Security Council’s attention to “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Guterres said that an “even worse” situation could be unfolding in the Gaza Strip, which includes diseases that could become epidemics as well as additional pressure to send civilians who have been displaced due to the war to nearby countries.
This letter is a big move, and quite rare, for the chief of the U.N. Guterres has called for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, as the death toll in Gaza rises alongside complete destruction. Hamas, which the U.S. officially recognizes as a terrorist organization, has controlled Gaza since back in 2007.
The war has now reached its second full month, following Hamas’ surprise and deadly attack on October 7 that left more than 1,200 people dead, many of whom were innocent civilians. In addition, Hamas took more than 100 hostages – only some of whom they released recently as part of a temporary ceasefire that has since ended.
Israel has pledged to completely destroy Hamas, and they’ve pounded Gaza with airstrikes and raids to do so. The Gaza Health Ministry has reported that more than 16,000 people have been killed in Gaza during the fighting.
Many international experts have warned that it’s tough to trust those numbers, though, as Hamas controls the Health Ministry.
In addition to the death and destruction, a humanitarian crisis has been unfolding as people have had limited access to fuel, food and water. While the temporary ceasefire that lasted a week certainly helped the situation a bit, fighting picked back up again last week.
Guterres said conditions in Gaza now render it “impossible” for additional humanitarian operations to be carried out effectively.
As he wrote in his letter:
“While delivery of supplies through Rafah continues, quantities are insufficient and have developed since the pause came to an end. We are simply unable to reach those in need inside Gaza.”
He called on the U.N. Security Council to “press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” reiterating his “urgent appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to allow the means of survival” in Gaza to be restored.
He also urged for aid to be delivered to Gaza in a timely and safe fashion.