UN Secretary-General António Guterres appeals to Security Council to declare humanitarian ceasefire in Israel-Hamas conflict

Wednesday, December 6th, 2023 21:52 | By
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. PHOTO/@antonioguterres/X

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter - for the first time in his tenure as Secretary-General.

Guterres says the world is facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, urging the UN Security Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe by declaring a humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

It is estimated that more than 1,200 people were killed, including 33 children, and thousands were injured in the attack by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on October 2, 2023.

During the attack,

Guterres says that 250 people were abducted, including 34 children, more than 130 of whom are still captive.

Guterres, who has called for their immediate release, says there were appalling cases of sexual violence during the attack.

In retaliation, Israel launched an attack against Hamas, especially in the Gaza Strip, which has left over 15,000 dead, over 40 per cent of whom were children.

Thousands of others have been injured and more than half of all homes in Gaza destroyed.

"Some 80 per cent of the population of 2.2 million has been forcibly displaced, into increasingly smaller areas. More than 1.1 million people have sought refuge in UNRWA facilities across Gaza, creating overcrowded, undignified, and unhygienic conditions. Others have nowhere to shelter and find themselves on the street. Explosive remnants of war are rendering areas uninhabitable. There is no effective protection of civilians," Guterres noted.

"The health care system in Gaza is collapsing. Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds. Only 14 hospitals out of 36 facilities are even partially functional. The two major hospitals in south Gaza are operating at three times their bed capacity and are running out of basic supplies and fuel. They are also sheltering thousands of displaced persons. Under these circumstances, more people will die untreated in the coming days and weeks."

Guterres' plea

He says that with the current attacks, he expects the public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, making humanitarian assistance impossible.

"The current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted. We are, nevertheless, preparing options for monitoring the implementation of the resolution even if we recognize that in the present circumstance, that is untenable," he says.

"While delivery of supplies through Rafah continues, quantities are insufficient and have dropped since the pause came to an end. The capacity of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners has been decimated by supply shortages, lack of fuel, interrupted communications, and growing insecurity. Humanitarian personnel have joined the vast majority of Gazan civilians in evacuating to south Gaza ahead of advancing military operations. At least 130 UNRWA colleagues have been killed, many with their families."

Guterres says 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.

"The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis. 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 civilian population must be spared from greater harm. With a humanitarian ceasefire, the means of survival can be restored, and humanitarian assistance can be delivered in a safe and timely manner across the Gaza Strip," he says.

Recently, Israel released about three dozen Palestinian prisoners after Hamas released 17 hostages in the second round of swaps under a cease-fire deal.

As part of the ongoing prisoner-hostage swap agreement with Hamas, Israel released 39 Palestinians -- six women and 33 minors -- from two prisons, reported Palestinian local news agency.

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