UN chief invokes rare article to bring UNSC’s attention to ‘unfolding Gaza catastrophe’

  • Says UNSC’s continued inaction, deterioration of situation in Gaza compelled him to invoke Article 99
  • Hamas battles Israeli invasion forces in Khan Yunis city

GAZA: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter to bring to the attention of the Security Council the deteriorating conditions in the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

In Article 99, the charter states, “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”.

Now Guterres will have the right to speak at the Security Council, without having to be invited to speak by a member state, as is usually the case.

In a letter to the Security Council released a day earlier, Guterres said the UNSC’s continued lack of action and the sharp deterioration of the situation in Gaza had compelled him to invoke Article 99 for the first time since he took on the top job at the UN in 2017.

Guterres warned that public order in Gaza could soon break down amid the complete collapse of the humanitarian system and with no effective protection for civilians, “nowhere was safe in Gaza”.

“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,” the letter stated.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen lashed out against Guterres, saying his tenure was “a danger to world peace” after he invoked a rare UN procedure over the Gaza war.

“His request to activate Article 99 and the call for a ceasefire in Gaza constitutes support of the Hamas terrorist organization,” Cohen wrote on X.

“We, too, want this war to end,” Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy told reporters, “But it can only end in a way that ensures that Hamas can never attack our people again.”

Hamas battles invading Israeli forces

Hamas resistance fighters battled invading Israeli forces on Thursday in the heart of southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Yunis as Israel pressed on with its invasion across the besieged territory.

Israeli troops, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers continued to advance into Khan Yunis, forcing already displaced civilians to flee again, witnesses said.

Hamas said late Wednesday on Telegram its fighters were engaged in fierce battles against Israeli troops “on all axes of the incursion into the Gaza Strip”, as it said they destroyed two dozen military vehicles in Khan Yunis and Beit Lahia in the north of the territory.

Earlier, the Israeli army claimed it had pierced defensive lines and carried out “targeted raids in the heart of the city”, where they allegedly found and destroyed 30 tunnel shafts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement that Israeli forces were closing in on the home of Hamas’s chief in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, with a spokesman saying it is “underground” in the Khan Yunis area.

Sinwar stands accused of being one of the masterminds of the October 7 attacks on Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the deadliest attack in its history, vowing to eradicate the group and bring home all the captives.

Sinwar has not been seen in public during the war, and Israel has named him and the leader of Hamas’s armed wing, Mohammed Deif, as its top military targets.

But humanitarian organisations have warned the spread of the war into the south of the Gaza Strip will leave civilians who fled the north, much of which is now destroyed, with nowhere to go.

“We are devastated, mentally overwhelmed,” said Khan Yunis resident Amal Mahdi. “We need someone to find us a solution so we can get out of this situation.”

The latest toll from the Palestinian government said the war has killed more than 16,000 people in Gaza, most of them women and children.

Much of northern Gaza has already been reduced to rubble by fierce fighting and bombardment, displacing 1.9 million people according to UN figures.

Many civilians fled to Khan Yunis when Israel ordered them to evacuate the north of the territory earlier in the war.

They are now being pushed further south to Rafah on the border with Egypt.

“There was bombardment, destruction, leaflets dropping, threats, and phone calls to evacuate and leave Khan Yunis,” said Khamis Al-Dalu, who told AFP he was first displaced from Gaza City, and then from Khan Yunis to Rafah.

“Where to go? Where do you want us to go for God’s sake? We left Khan Yunis and now we are in tents in Rafah.”

And Israeli bombardments have followed them there.

A strike on a residential district in Rafah left 17 dead and dozens injured late Wednesday, the health ministry said, and an AFP journalist saw the wounded, including children, being taken to a local Kuwaiti hospital.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera television network said one of its journalists had lost 22 members of his family in a strike in the northern refugee camp of Jabalia.

The Israeli army said Wednesday it had struck about 250 targets in Gaza over the past 24 hours and claimed that troops had found a major arms depot “in the heart of a civilian population” near a clinic and school in the north of the territory.

“The depot contained hundreds of RPG missiles and launchers of various types, dozens of anti-tank missiles,” explosives and drones, it said in a statement.

AFP footage from Wednesday showed smoke trails after rocket fire from Rafah towards Israel. According to the Israeli military, three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting in Gaza on Wednesday.

Mass civilian casualties in the war have sparked global concern, heightened by dire shortages caused by an Israeli siege that has seen only limited supplies of food, water, fuel and medicines enter.

On Wednesday, Israel approved a “minimal” increase in fuel supplies to Gaza, to prevent a “humanitarian collapse and the outbreak of epidemics in the south of the Gaza Strip”, according to Netanyahu’s office.

The war has sparked fears of a wider regional conflict, with near-daily exchanges of fire with Hezbollah across Israel’s border with Lebanon and a surge of deadly violence in the occupied West Bank.

On Wednesday, Israel claimed a missile fired at the Red Sea town of Eilat “was successfully intercepted” after sirens blared in the resort.

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops raided two refugee camps and killed three Palestinians, one aged 16, according to the Palestinian health ministry and Wafa news agency.

Palestinian authorities say more than 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire or settler attacks since the war began.

Israeli authorities meanwhile approved the construction of more than 1,700 new homes, a non-governmental organisation said Wednesday, a move constituting the expansion of settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

Half the “new neighbourhood” comprising 1,738 housing units will be in the city’s annexed east, the Israeli NGO Peace Now said.

“If it weren’t for the war (between Israel and Hamas), there would be a lot of noise. It’s a highly problematic project for the continuity of a Palestinian state between the southern West Bank and east Jerusalem,” Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran told AFP.

 

 

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