1 of 4 | Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled Howitzer shell from a base in southern Israel into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Photo by Jim Hollander/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday invoked a rarely used article of the U.N. charter to pressure the Security Council to call for a humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, attracting a scathing rebuke from Israel's foreign minister who derided the move as tantamount to endorsing " the murder" of Israelis.
Guterres invoked Article 99 for the first time in his seven-year tenure to bring the issue of a humanitarian cease-fire to the attention of the security council, saying the situation in Gaza is "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," he said in the letter to the president of the Security Council.
"I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe."
Gaza has been under incessant Israeli airstrikes with Israeli troops also on the ground since the war between Israel and Hamas began on Oct. 7, following the militant group's surprise attack that killed 1,200 Israelis and took some 240 others hostage. More than 100 remain captive.
The ongoing bombardment of Gaza, however, has resulted in a death toll that has grown to nearly 16,000 Palestinians, mostly children and women. Eighty percent of the enclave's 2.2 million population has been displaced. And its healthcare system is collapsing under the weight of need and the war.
Guterres described the effect of the fighting as having "created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory."
The 15-member U.N. Security Council had four times attempted to pass a resolution on the war, but failed, with a resolution passing Nov. 15 that called for the release of all hostages held by Hamas and for "urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors" in Gaza.
A weeklong truce between the warring sides collapsed Friday, leading to renewed fighting that prompted strong calls from top U.N. officials, including Guterres, for unimpeded humanitarian aid access and for the lives of Palestinian civilians to be spared.
Late Wednesday, Josep Borrell, the European Union's top diplomat, called on EU members of the council to support Guterres' call.
"The #UNSC must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza," he said in a statement online.
Eli Cohen, Israel's foreign minister, lashed out at Guterres on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, over the U.N. head's invocation of Article 99, describing his tenure as chief of the intergovernmental body "a danger to world peace."
"His request to activate Article 99 and the call for a cease-fire in Gaza constitutes support of the Hamas terrorist organization and an endorsement of the murder of the elderly, the abduction of babies and the rape of women," Cohen said in the statement.
"Anyone who supports world peace must support the liberation of Gaza from Hamas."
Cohen has previously publicly condemned comments made by U.N. officials. His comments on Guterres follow his revocation of a residence visa to Lynn Hastings, the U.N's humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, who on Monday said, "an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold" in Gaza.
With announcing the punitive measure against Hastings, Cohen said: "We will no longer be silent in the face of the bias of the UN!"
Displaced Palestinians who fled from Khan Younis, put together a makeshift shelter in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, on December 4, 2023. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo