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Gaza war aggravates threats to international peace, UN Sec-Gen warns

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has written to the UN Security Council warning public order is set to break down in Gaza completely and there…

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has written to the UN Security Council warning public order is set to break down in Gaza completely and there is no means of getting aid over the border into the enclave.

He also warned that the war on the Gaza Strip “may worsen existing threats to international peace and security.”

Guterres has invoked what is widely considered to be the most powerful diplomatic tool at his disposal.

The move is coming on the heels of the death toll in the occupied territories of Palestine reported as topping 16,248 people, including 7,112 children and 4,885 women, in Gaza since 7 October, according to a statement from the Hamas media office on Tuesday.

Displaced civilians flee as Israeli forces encircle southern Gaza city

War on Gaza: Israel kills 16, 248 Palestinians in 60 days

In a letter to the UN Security Council, yesterday Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which states that “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”.

The letter represents the first time Guterres has invoked the article since he took over the role of UN secretary-general on January 1, 2017.

In the letter, Guterres calls for the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared in Gaza.

He said, “More than eight weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“The current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted.

“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 international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis,” Guterres stated.

UK’s The Guardian said the move is designed to put pressure on the US to direct Israel to let aid cross over from Egypt into Gaza. The US claimed it had reached such an agreement last week, and since then has fended off complaints that its agreement has not been honoured by Israel.

Some Arab foreign ministers including the Egyptian foreign minister have travelled to New York to demand action.

Al Jazeera reports that “This is the secretary-general’s equivalent of pushing the panic button. Article 99 in the UN charter gives him the authority to call for a Security Council meeting for any topic that he views as a threat to international peace and security. And he’s doing so over Gaza.

“He’s doing this as a majority of council members have expressed support for a humanitarian ceasefire. However, the council has not invoked a resolution. The United States has been very clear in its opposition. The US, as a veto-wielding member, as recently as yesterday, said it did not believe such a resolution would help the situation. It instead called for continued negotiations.

“So, what you are seeing from UN officials and delegations here at the UN is a full-court press to try and get a ceasefire and some relief for the people of Gaza. Attempts are underway to break the logjam and help the Gaza Palestinians who are suffering immensely.”

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