Dec 6, 2023 - World

UN Security Council to discuss Gaza ceasefire after Guterres invokes rare rule

Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by air strikes on their homes in Khan Yunis in Gaza.

Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by air strikes on their homes in Khan Younis in Gaza on Dec. 4. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The UN Security Council is expected to meet on Friday to discuss the war in Gaza after Secretary-General António Guterres in a rare move formally urged the 15-member council to "use all of its influence" to prevent "a humanitarian catastrophe" in the enclave.

The big picture: It is the first time Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter since being appointed secretary-general in 2017. The rule allows the UN leader to bring any matter he believes threatens "international peace and security" to the Security Council. Guterres on Wednesday repeated his call for a "humanitarian ceasefire."

  • More than 16,200 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.
  • The already dire humanitarian conditions in the enclave have significantly worsened since the end of the seven-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Dec. 1, according to the UN humanitarian office (OCHA).
  • While dozens of aid trucks carrying humanitarian supplies and fuel have entered Gaza through Egypt since Tuesday, the "ability of the UN to receive incoming loads of aid has been significantly impaired over the past three days by several factors," including the shortage of trucks, the communications blackout and the hostilities, OCHA said on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system," Guterres wrote in his letter to the Security Council.

  • "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 cost," he said. "I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared. This is urgent."

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan attacked Guterres, calling his letter "a new moral low."

  • Erdan accused the UN secretary-general of only using Article 99 to put pressure on Israel.

State of play: Shortly after Guterres circulated his letter, the United Arab Emirates and Russia announced they were calling for an emergency Security Council meeting on Friday at 10am ET.

  • The UAE later circulated a draft resolution to the other members of the Security Council that cites Guterres' letter and demands "an immediate humanitarian ceasefire."
  • The draft resolution also calls on all parties in the war to comply with their obligations under international law.
  • The U.S., which has veto power on the Security Council, has repeatedly called on Israel to avoid civilian casualties and pressed the Israeli government to allow more aid into Gaza. But it has so far not called for a full ceasefire, saying Israel has a right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack that killed at least 1,200 people in Israel.
  • The Israeli war cabinet later on Wednesday approved increasing the amount of fuel allowed to enter Gaza.

Go deeper: Israel now willing to discuss post-war Gaza, U.S. officials say

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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