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Monday, February 26, 2024

UN Chief Raises Alarm Bell on Threat from Gaza War, Invokes Rarely-Used UN Article

In an unprecedented move on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised a red flag on the escalating conflict in Gaza, invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter and formally alerting the Security Council to the global threat posed by the Israel-Hamas war. Guterres, in a letter to the UNSC, emphasized that the ongoing conflict “may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security.”

For the first time during his tenure as Secretary-General, Guterres utilized Article 99 of the UN Charter, a provision that empowers him to bring attention to any matter he deems a potential threat to the maintenance of international peace and security. The article, seldom used in recent decades, underscores the severity of the situation in Gaza.

Facing a dire risk of the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, Guterres urgently called on the Security Council to intervene and appealed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. The implications of the conflict, he warned, could be irreversible for Palestinians, with far-reaching consequences for regional security.

Israel’s UN Ambassador, Gilad Erdan, rebuked Guterres, accusing him of reaching “a new moral low” by urging a ceasefire. Erdan contended that the Secretary-General’s call was effectively supporting “Hamas’ reign of terror in Gaza.” Israel reported 1,200 casualties and 240 people taken hostage during the October 7 attack by Hamas. The Israeli response has been focused on Gaza, involving aerial bombardment, a siege, and a ground assault. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported a toll of 16,015 deaths in the enclave of 2.3 million, emphasizing the severe humanitarian crisis.

Guterres, in his letter, highlighted the absence of effective protection for civilians in Gaza, asserting that “nowhere is safe.” The call for a humanitarian ceasefire aligns with the Secretary-General’s plea for international intervention to avert a catastrophic outcome in the region.

The UN chief’s warning prompted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to present a draft resolution to the Security Council, echoing Guterres’s plea for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” The UAE aims to bring the resolution to a vote on Friday, coinciding with Guterres’s briefing on the Gaza situation.

To be adopted, the resolution requires at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the five permanent members: the United States, Russia, China, France, or Britain. The United States and Israel, however, oppose a ceasefire, contending that it would only serve to benefit Hamas. Instead, Washington supports temporary pauses to protect civilians and facilitate the release of hostages taken by Hamas in the October 7 attack on Israel.

The draft resolution proposed by the UAE has garnered support from the Arab and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) group. The UAE mission to the UN emphasized the moral and humanitarian imperative of supporting the Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire, urging all nations to back the initiative. As the diplomatic efforts unfold, the international community watches closely, hopeful for a resolution that will alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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