WASHINGTON: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council Wednesday that the war in the Gaza Strip “may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security.”

Invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time since he became the organisation’s top official in 2017, Guterres said in a letter to the Council: “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, he added.

“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 cost,“ Anadolu Agency reported Gutteres said.

Guterres also highlighted that civilians throughout Gaza face “grave danger”, and health care system in Gaza is collapsing.

“Nowhere is safe in Gaza,“ he reiterated.

The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent escalation and end this crisis, the chief added.

“I urge the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared. This is urgent,“ Guterres said.

Article 99 of the UN Charter

Article 99 of the UN Charter allow Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Speaking at his daily briefing in New York, Anadolu reported UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday said Guterres has been calling for a humanitarian cease-fire.

Invoking one of the few powers that the Charter gives him, Dujarric said: “I think it is whichever way you see it a very dramatic constitutional move by the Secretary General of the United Nations.”

He added that the chief doesn’t use the word catastrophe “lightly.”

“We would like to see a call by the Security Council for humanitarian cease-fire. We would like to see the international community and those who are involved in the fighting actually agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire,“ he said.

Israel resumed its military offensive on the Gaza Strip last Friday after the end of a weeklong humanitarian pause with the Palestinian group Hamas.

At least 16,248 Palestinians have been killed and more than 43,616 others injured in Israeli relentless air and ground attacks on the enclave since Oct 7. - Bernama, Anadolu Agency

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