UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made an urgent appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
He invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which allows him to bring to the attention of the Security Council “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.
He added this was the first time he had done so since he became secretary general in 2017.
In a letter to the Security Council president, he stressed that the situation was deteriorating rapidly, with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians and for security in the whole region.
He says he expects public order to completely break down because of continuing Israeli bombardment and lack of essential supplies where epidemics could spread and pressure rise for mass displacement into neighbouring countries.
The explicit invoking of Article 99 by a secretary general has only happened nine times, and it’s been decades since.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan reacted angrily to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, and reiterated calls for him to resign.
“Today, the secretary-general has reached a new moral low,” he said.
He added that the call for a ceasefire was “actually a call to keep Hamas’ reign of terror in Gaza”.
“The distorted positions of the secretary general only prolong the fighting in Gaza, because they give hope to the Hamas terrorists that the war will be stopped and they will be able to survive,” he said.
Israel’s Security Cabinet has agreed to allow a “minimal” supplement of fuel into Gaza “to prevent a humanitarian collapse and the outbreak of epidemics” in the territory’s south.
In a statement, the Israeli prime minister’s office says the amount of fuel will be decided on by the cabinet, based on the humanitarian situation in the Strip.
This even as legislation to provide new security assistance for Israel was blocked by Republican members of the US Senate.
Hamas attacked Israel in October, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages, some of whom were released during a short-lived truce. Hamas officials in Gaza say Israel has killed more than 16,200 people in its retaliatory campaign, including about 7,000 children.
The UN for weeks has been urgently warning about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza