There has been mixed reaction to the move made by United Nation’s (UN) secretary general, Antonio Gutteres, after he invoked the rare Article 99 of the UN’s charter.
The secretary general invoked the special power in a bid to press the Security Council over the crisis in the war-torn Gaza strip.
Article 99 in the UN charter states that the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter, which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.
His move comes exactly two months since the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 16 000 people, began as a result of Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israel.
The majority of the deceased are reportedly women and children.
In his letter, Gutteres reiterated his call for a humanitarian cease fire, saying the situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole.
“Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible,” he said.
I’ve just invoked Art.99 of the UN Charter – for the 1st time in my tenure as Secretary-General.
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. pic.twitter.com/pA0eRXZnFJ
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) December 6, 2023
“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,” he added.
Civil society reacts
Human rights NGO, Africa4Palestine’s Muhammed Desai says they hope that the UN Secretary General’s move will lead to an immediate ceasefire.
He says all that’s needed now is an end to the violence and the preservation of life.
The SA Zionist Federation has on the other hand expressed concern over the United Nation’s decision to invoked the rare Article 99.
The federation’s director of public policy, Benji Shulman, says Israel has the right to defend itself – adding that the United Nations has failed to condemn Hamas for the organisation’s actions against the Israelis.
Wits University’s International Relations expert, John Stremlau, says this invocation of the article will put United States President Joe Biden’s administration in a difficult position.
Speaking to Ynews, Stremlau says while the Security Council will play a major role in this, the United States could veto the world body’s attempts.
The scholar believes that invoking Article 99 was a symbolic gesture by Gutteres.
He says pressure is mounting on the Biden administration as the public is restive about Washington’s support for Israel, despite the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
“The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis.”
— United Nations (@UN) December 6, 2023
On October 7, Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing 1 200 people and taking about 240 hostages.
The the Israeli military retaliated with air strikes on Gaza.
In November, the parties agreed to a pause, which lasted seven days during which Hamas released more than 100 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinians, who were held in Israeli jails.
Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris