UN chief Guterres calls on Security Council to declare ceasefire in Gaza

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has invoked one of the few powers that the Charter gives him, to call on the Security Council to declare a ceasefire in Gaza. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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UN chief Guterres calls on Security Council to declare ceasefire in Gaza

  • Invokes Article 99 of UN Charter, the first time he felt compelled to since taking office in 2017

NEW YORK: In a dramatic constitutional move, the UN secretary-general has invoked one of the few powers that the Charter gives him, to call on the Security Council to declare a ceasefire to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza that could have “potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region.”

He cautioned that such an outcome should be avoided “at all cost.” In a letter to the Security Council seen by Arab News, Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which says 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.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said this was the first time Guterres had felt compelled to invoke the article since taking office in 2017.

In his letter, Guterres said the more than eight weeks of fighting had “created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

He added: “Since the start of Israel’s military operation, more than 15,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children. Thousands of others have been injured. More than half of all homes have been destroyed.”

He said: “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 streets.”

Guterres also said “the health care system in Gaza is collapsing. Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds. Nowhere is safe in Gaza.”

He warned that amid the constant bombardment across the enclave “and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon.”

Guterres reiterated his plea for a “humanitarian ceasefire to be declared,” adding: “This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm.”

Dujarric called it a “very powerful move” on behalf of the secretary-general, and expressed hope that the 15-member Security Council “will be moved to push and put in place a humanitarian ceasefire.”

The spokesman said: “I think we’re getting to a point of near paralysis of our humanitarian operations where 15,000 people have reportedly already died, where 130 of our (UNRWA) colleagues have died. (The secretary-general) doesn’t use the word catastrophe lightly.”

Asked by Arab News what took Guterres so long to invoke Article 99 given that “catastrophe” was used from the first week to describe Gaza’s plight, Dujarric said the secretary-general has been “extremely clear, has been involved. Everything is done, in a sense, in a methodical way.

“One doesn’t invoke this article lightly … Given the situation on the ground and the risk of complete collapse not only of our humanitarian operations but of civil order, it’s something that he felt needed to be done now.”

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme sounded the alarm that “the resumption of hostilities in Gaza will only intensify the catastrophic hunger crisis that already threatens to overwhelm the civilian population.”

In a statement, the UN agency said: “The renewed fighting makes the distribution of aid almost impossible and endangers the lives of humanitarian workers.”

The UAE and Russia have called for a Security Council meeting on Friday “in the light of the deteriorating situation on the ground and given today’s appeal of the secretary-general for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire.”

The two council members have said they want the talks to focus on “the resumption of hostilities in Gaza and the inconsistency of the plans announced by Israel to its obligations under International Humanitarian Law.”


Yemen’s Houthis say they will continue sinking British ships

Updated 4 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis say they will continue sinking British ships

  • The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile
CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthis vowed on Sunday to continue targeting British ships in the Gulf of Aden following the sinking of UK-owned vessel Rubymar.
The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Yemeni Houthi militants on Feb. 18.
“Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain’s bill,” Hussein Al-Ezzi, deputy foreign minister in the Houthi-led government, said in a post on X.
“It is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring ongoing crimes against civilians in Gaza.”

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

Updated 14 min 47 sec ago
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Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

  • The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah
  • The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags

RAFAH: Born a few weeks into the Gaza war, infant twins Wesam and Naeem Abu Anza were buried on Sunday, the youngest of 14 members of the same family whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
Their mother, Rania Abu Anza, held one of the twins, its tiny body wrapped in a white shroud, to her cheek and stroked its head during the funeral on Sunday. A mourner held the second baby close by, pale blue pyjamas visible beneath a shroud.
“My heart is gone,” wept Abu Anza, whose husband was also killed, as mourners comforted her. She resisted when asked to release the body of one of the babies ahead of burial. “Leave her with me,” she said, in a low voice.
The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah, according to the health ministry in Gaza. Abu Anza said she had given birth to them — her first children — after 11 years of marriage.
“We were asleep, we were not shooting and we were not fighting. What is their fault? What is their fault, what is her fault?” Abu Anza said.
“How will I continue to live now?“
Relatives said the twins had been born some four months ago, about a month into the war which began on Oct. 7, when Hamas stormed Israel, in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip since then, according to Gaza health authorities, laying waste to the territory and uprooting most of its population.
The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags. A man wept over the body of one of the dead, a child wearing pyjamas. “God have mercy on her, God have mercy on her,” said another man, consoling him.
Abu Anza said she had been wishing for a ceasefire before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which begins around March 10.
US President Joe Biden has expressed hope one will be agreed by then. “We were preparing for Ramadan, how am I supposed to live my life? How?” she said.


Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

Updated 35 min 17 sec ago
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Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

  • Meeting held on the sidelines of GCC ministerial session
  • Foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco discuss Gaza

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council carried its 159th ministerial session in Riyadh on Sunday, while separate meetings were held involving the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.

Joint ministerial meeting held on the sidelines between the GCC and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that what is happening in Gaza is a systematic plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Adding that "Security solutions to the conflict have brought nothing but destruction to the region, and the escalation in Gaza extended to the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab"

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Jasem Mohammed Al-Budaiwi firmly reiterated the collective stance of the GCC nations, denouncing the severe Israeli infringements of international humanitarian law in Gaza, particularly its consistent and direct targeting of civilians. Al-Budaiwi also underscored the immediate need for a ceasefire.

Al-Budaiwi also pointed out GCC rejection of any measure that would affect Egypt’s right to the Nile waters and stressed the necessity to reach an agreement on the Renaissance Dam.


Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

Updated 03 March 2024
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Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council carried its 159th ministerial session in Riyadh on Sunday, while separate meetings were held involving the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.

Joint ministerial meeting held on the sidelines between the GCC and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that what is happening in Gaza is a systematic plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Adding that "Security solutions to the conflict have brought nothing but destruction to the region, and the escalation in Gaza extended to the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab"

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Jasem Mohammed Al-Budaiwi firmly reiterated the collective stance of the GCC nations, denouncing the severe Israeli infringements of international humanitarian law in Gaza, particularly its consistent and direct targeting of civilians. Al-Budaiwi also underscored the immediate need for a ceasefire.

Al-Budaiwi also pointed out GCC rejection of any measure that would affect Egypt’s right to the Nile waters and stressed the necessity to reach an agreement on the Renaissance Dam.

 


Hamas, Qatari, US envoys in Cairo for Gaza talks: state-linked media

Updated 17 min 20 sec ago
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Hamas, Qatari, US envoys in Cairo for Gaza talks: state-linked media

  • A Hamas official says a ceasefire in Gaza may be secured if Israel accepts group's demands
  • Meanwhile, the Israeli military intensified operations in Khan Younis

CAIRO: Delegations from Hamas, Qatar and the United States have arrived in Egypt for “a new round of negotiations” toward a truce in the Gaza war, state-linked Al-Qahera News reported Sunday.
Cairo, Doha and Washington have mediated in weeks of talks aiming to pause the fighting in the almost five-months-old war between Israel and Hamas sparked by the October 7 attack.
Their goal has been to secure a truce by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, but hopes have been dampened by a series of failed talks since a one-week pause in November.
A Hamas source on Sunday told AFP its delegation to Cairo is being led by senior leader Khalil Al-Haya.
“The delegation will meet Egyptian mediators and deliver the group’s response to the new Paris proposal,” the source said, in reference to negotiations held last month in the French capital with Israel’s presence.
The United States regards Hamas as a “terrorist” organization, and in previous talks Egyptian officials have functioned as the key conduit between US envoys and Hamas, as well as between Israel and Hamas.
The negotiations have centered on a proposal to pause the fighting for six weeks and for Hamas to free hostages in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, and greater aid deliveries.
The war began on October 7 with an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Gaza militants also abducted 250 hostages, of whom 130 remain in captivity according to Israel, a figure that includes 31 presumed dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive on the besieged Palestinian territory has killed 30,410 people, mostly women and children, the Gaza health ministry reported Sunday.