UN Secretary-General invokes Article 99 over "urgent" Gaza situation in rare move

New York, New York - In a rare move, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the UN Security Council to take action to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time since taking office.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time since taking office.  © Andrea RENAULT / AFP

In a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday, the UN chief invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time since taking office in 2017.

The massive loss of life in the Gaza Strip and in Israel within a comparatively short period of time spurred Guterres's decision to invoke Article 99, according to the United Nations.

This allows the Secretary-General to draw the attention of the Security Council to "any matter which, in his opinion, may jeopardize the maintenance of international peace and security." According to the UN, Article 99 has not been invoked for decades.

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"Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared," Guterres said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. He attached his letter to his post.

"I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared. This is urgent," the letter said. "The civilian population must be spared from greater harm."

There are no direct consequences of invoking Article 99. However, it is to be expected that the Security Council will meet this week to discuss the issue and that UN chief Guterres will also be present.

UN Security Council has often been divided on Israel-Gaza war

Normally, the members of the Security Council themselves decide which matters they perceive as a threat to world peace and, therefore wish to put on the agenda. So far, the most powerful UN body has passed a resolution on the Gaza war but has otherwise often been divided.

Israel's massive military retaliation was triggered by the worst terrorist attack in Israel's history, by militants from Hamas and other terrorist groups on October 7 in southern Israel. Israel says more than 1200 people, including around 850 civilians, were killed.

According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, the Israeli army has killed more than 16,200 people in the Gaza Strip since then.

This figure cannot be independently verified at present. However, the UN and observers point out that the authority's figures have proved to be generally credible in the past.

Cover photo: Andrea RENAULT / AFP

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