United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday invoked Article 99 of the U.N. charter for the first time, citing a “severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza,” as the war rages on between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
In a letter to José Javier De la Gasca Lopez Domínguez, the current U.N. Security Council president, Guterres said he expects “public order to completely break down due to desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.”
The invocation of Article 99 allows the U.N. secretary-general to bring the attention of the security council to “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security,” per the U.N.
Guterres warned of an “even worse” situation unfolding in the besieged territory, including epidemic diseases and an increase in pressure to send displaced civilians to surrounding countries.
The letter marks a rare and significant move by the U.N. chief, who has repeatedly called for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas amidst the rising death toll and destruction of Gaza, which has been controlled by Hamas since 2007.
The war has now raged for nearly two months, with a weeklong pause, since Hamas launched a surprise assault into southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,200 people, including hundreds of civilians.
Israel has hammered Gaza in response as part of its pledge to destroy the group and its military capabilities. The death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 16,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.
Israel’s siege on basic necessities including food, water and fuel further exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the territory.
While a weeklong truce last month allowed aid to enter the territory, fighting resumed last week, and Guterres said the current conditions make it “impossible” for humanitarian operations to be effectively conducted.
“While delivery of supplies through Rafah continues, quantities are insufficient and have dropped since the pause came to an end. We are simply unable to reach those in need inside Gaza,” Guterres wrote.
Guterres called on the Security Council to “press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe” and reiterated his “urgent appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to allow the means of survival” to be restored and the safe and timely delivery of aid to Gaza.