Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. (Photo: Kuhlmann, MSC, via Wikimedia Commons)
By Palestine Chronicle Staff
UN Secretary-General António Guterres invoked, on Wednesday, Article 99 of the founding UN Charter. What does it mean?
Article 99 allows the Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The article has not been used for decades, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
Guterres reiterated in the letter his appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
What Did the Letter Say?
“I am writing under Article 99 of the United Nations Charter to bring to the attention of the Security Council a matter which, in my opinion, may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security,” read the letter.
“This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm. With a humanitarian ceasefire, the means of survival can be restored, and humanitarian assistance can be delivered in a safe and timely manner across the Gaza Strip,” it said.
“Civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger,” said the UN Secretary-General, adding that since the start of Israel’s aggression on the Gaza Strip,
“more than 15,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 percent of whom were children. Thousands of others have been injured. More than half of all homes have been destroyed. Some 80 percent of the population of 2.2 million has been forcibly displaced, into increasingly smaller areas.
“More than 1.1 million people have sought refuge in UNRWA facilities across Gaza, creating overcrowded, undignified, and unhygienic conditions. Others have nowhere to shelter and find themselves on the street. Explosive remnants of war are rendering areas uninhabitable. There is no effective protection of civilians.”
Healthcare System Collapsing
Guterres warned in the letter that the healthcare system in Gaza is collapsing.
“Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds. Only 14 hospitals out of 36 facilities are even partially functional. The two major hospitals in south Gaza are operating at three times their bed capacity and are running out of basic supplies and fuel. They are also sheltering thousands of displaced persons. Under these circumstances, more people will die untreated in the coming days and weeks.”
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza,” he stressed.
The UN chief said he expects public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions amid constant bombardment by the Israeli occupation forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.
“An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries.”
“In Resolution 2712 (2023), the Security Council ‘calls for the scaling up of the provision of such supplies to meet the humanitarian needs of the civilian population, especially children’,” said the UN chief.
He stressed that the current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted.
“We are, nevertheless, preparing options for monitoring the implementation of the resolution, even if we recognize that in the present circumstances, that is untenable.”
While delivery of supplies through Rafah continues, quantities are insufficient and have dropped since the pause came to an end, he said.
“We are simply unable to reach those in need inside Gaza. The capacity of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners has been decimated by supply shortages, lack of fuel, interrupted communications, and growing insecurity.”
He said that the humanitarian personnel have joined the vast majority of Gazan civilians in evacuating to south Gaza ahead of advancing Israeli military attacks.
“At least 130 UNRWA colleagues have been killed, many with their families,” Guterres said.
“We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system. 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. Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs,” the letter added.
“The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis.
“I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
“I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.”
“This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm. With a humanitarian ceasefire, the means of survival can be restored, and humanitarian assistance can be delivered in a safe and timely manner across the Gaza Strip,” the letter concluded.
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