United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed his call for a humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, warning that public order could completely break down soon, and the humanitarian system there is at “severe risk” of collapse.
“Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect the public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible,” Guterres warned in a letter to the U.N. Security Council.
“An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries,” he added.
Guterres said current conditions on the ground make it “impossible” for significant humanitarian operations to be carried out.
“We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system,” he warned. “The situation is fast deteriorating into catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region.”
Guterres said such an outcome must be avoided at all costs.
The U.N. chief wrote to the council under Article 99 of the U.N. Charter, which gives him one of his few powers — to bring to the powerful 15-nation council’s attention any matter he believes may threaten international peace and security.
It is the first time he has invoked Article 99 in his nearly seven-year tenure.
“It is a very dramatic, constitutional move by the secretary-general of the United Nations,” his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “The actual invocation of Article  hasn’t happened in decades.”
Dujarric said he expects the Security Council will meet this week and for Guterres to brief them.
Israel’s U.N. ambassador called Guterres’ invoking of Article 99 a “new moral low.”
“The secretary-general decided to activate this rare clause only when it allows him to put pressure on Israel, which is fighting the Nazi Hamas terrorists,” Gilad Erdan said in a statement. “This is more proof of the secretary-general's moral distortion and his bias against Israel.”
Erdan also criticized Guterres’ renewed call for a humanitarian cease-fire, saying it “is actually a call to keep Hamas' reign of terror in Gaza.” He said Guterres is continually “playing into Hamas' hands.”
The Israeli envoy has previously called for Guterres to resign over comments he has made around the October 7 terror attacks on Israel, and he renewed that call on Wednesday.
The United Arab Emirates, which sits on the U.N. Security Council, said it submitted with the support of Arab and Muslim member states, a draft resolution to the Security Council referencing Guterres’ uses of Article 99 and demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.
“This is a moral and humanitarian imperative and we urge all countries to support the call of the Secretary-General,” the UAE mission said on social media platform, X.
Hunger crisis will intensify, says WFP
The World Food Program warned Tuesday that the resumption of hostilities in Gaza will intensify the “catastrophic hunger crisis” that is already threatening civilians. More than 1.8 million Gazans have been displaced by the conflict.
“The renewed fighting makes the distribution of aid almost impossible and endangers the lives of humanitarian workers,” the WFP said. “Above all, it is a disaster for the civilian population of Gaza, more than 2 million people, whose only lifeline is food assistance.”
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which governs Gaza, after the group’s fighters launched a massive terror attack inside Israel on October. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israel.
Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and others, also took about 240 people hostage. More than 100 of the hostages have since been released, most of them during a seven-day-long truce between Israel and Hamas that collapsed last week.
Israel's air and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 16,000 Palestinians. About 70% are reported to be women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.