The humanitarian response in Gaza is now at breaking point following Israel’s renewed shelling campaign on December 1.
Breaking news from Al Jazeera has emerged today of the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres invoking Article 99 of the founding UN Charter, the most powerful diplomatic tool available to him, triggering an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
As per the charter, Guterres is allowed to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
A UN report cites two prior invocations by former Secretary Generals of the article, in 1959 amid Belgian aggression against the Congolese in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another instance was in 1966 after a complaint by Tunisia against France.
This news comes amid reports by humanitarian agencies such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that underscore a dire situation only getting worse. Since October 7, the Palestinian death toll has exceeded 16,000 people, with the majority of casualties being women and children.
A further 43,000 Palestinians have been left injured and nearly 2 million now being internally displaced.
In Secretary General Guterres’ letter addressed to the President of the Security Council, José Javier de la Gasca Lopez Domínguez, published today by UN OCHA, he said “Civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger. Since the start of Israel’s military operation, more than 15,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children.”
He also stressed the dire straits Gaza’s health sector is under, with now only 14 out of 36 hospitals being functional, and only partially.
In a November 29 news update by UNRWA, the agency described the North of the Gaza Strip as having been cut off from aid assistance for almost 50 days prior to November 27 during the initial Qatari brokered ceasefire, which began on November 24. The temporary truce ended on December 1, after being extended twice following Qatari and Egyptian mediation efforts.
Guterres’ letter calls for the ceasefire to be reinstated. “This is urgent,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Reuters reported on Monday that 15 member states of the World Health Organisation initiated an emergency meeting to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The WHO’s emergency meeting, which is expected to be held on December 10, will be convened by WHO Director-General Dr Ghebreyesus, in consultation with the WHO’s Qatari chairperson, Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari.