'We have to act now': UN chief's Gaza resolution faces Security Council test

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The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss a draft resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after Secretary General Antonio Guterres took the rare step of declaring the conflict a threat to world peace and security.

The UAE submitted the resolution hours after Mr Guterres on Wednesday invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which 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”.

Mr Guterres warned of an imminent “humanitarian catastrophe” and implored Security Council members to call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

More than 17,000 people have been killed in the enclave and most of the population left without shelter or basic essentials two months into an Israeli offensive.

The UAE, with the support of the Arab and Islamic states, circulated a brief draft resolution to the council, which expressed “grave concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population”.

It said that the “Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law”.

The diplomats also demanded the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and humanitarian access into Gaza.

According to a UN diplomat, invoking Article 99 was entirely the decision of the Secretary General.

“For the UN in Gaza, the time is up and we have to act now,” the diplomat told The National, while warning that the article was not a “magic bullet”.

The UAE is aiming to put the text to a vote on Friday, when the council is set to be briefed by Mr Guterres on the situation in Gaza.

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Lightning strikes as smoke billows following an Israeli bombardment of Gaza city. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A funeral of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Palestinian families fleeing Gaza city and other parts of northern Gaza head south. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Tal Almog-Goldstein, a hostage released by Hamas, is driven to an army base in Ofakim, southern Israel. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A wounded Palestinian woman is surrounded by her children at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis after Israeli air strikes hit their home. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

People flee following Israeli air strikes on a neighbourhood in the Al Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza raise their arms as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies at a Senate review of national security requests in Washington. EPA

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A woman cradles the body of her sister, killed in an Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A bloody handprint inside a house at Nir Oz kibbutz, one of the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip attacked on October 7 by Hamas. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A Palestinian woman in shock after air strikes hit buildings near her home in Rafah. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Palestinians fleeing the north trudge along the Salaheddine road in the southern outskirts of Gaza city, with Israeli tanks in the background. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A girl wonders what it is all about after a bombardment in Rafah. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Kibbutz Nir Oz resident Hadas Kalderon, whose children were taken hostage, breaks down. Her mother and niece were killed. Getty Images

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Many displaced Palestinians are now taking shelter in tented camps at UN-run centres. Reuters

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Destruction as far as the eye can see in Gaza city. EPA

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A boy helps wheel his injured mother into Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A Palestinian child is treated at Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah. AP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A man mourns as bodies are returned to relatives for burial. Reuters

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Members of the Jewish community and supporters of Israel attend a rally in New York calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas. AFP

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Palestinians collect water, of which there is an acute shortage in the Gaza Strip, from a desalination plant. Reuters

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

A doctor assesses the situation at Al Ahli Arab Hospital after yet another air strike in Gaza city. EPA

The US deputy envoy to the UN, Robert Wood, told reporters on Thursday that the US had not had any discussions with the UAE about its text.

“But we’ve been very clear, we don’t think another Security Council product right now is going to be helpful to the situation,” Mr Wood said.

The US, Israel’s strongest ally, has already used its veto once to block a resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire as it did not explicitly condemn Hamas.

Instead, Washington is advocating for temporary humanitarian pauses as long as Hamas continues to release hostages it took during its attack in southern Israel on October 7, which led to the conflict.

Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group, told The National that while Article 99 carried symbolic weight, the Secretary General cannot force states to act on his warning.

“This could still backfire for him,” Mr Gowan said.

'we have to act now': un chief's gaza resolution faces security council test

Antonio Guterres speaks to the UN Security Council meeting called to address the Israel-Gaza war, on October 24. EPA

“I do think it is brave of the Secretary General to invoke Article 99. By taking the risk of upsetting the US, he is sending a clear signal that it is essential to halt the war in Gaza.

“He’s effectively putting his own credibility on the line to try to get to peace, and that is not a small gesture.”

Should the US veto the ceasefire resolution, Mr Gowan said, “it will look like Washington is disregarding the Secretary General.

“That will do the US reputational damage, but it will also leave Guterres looking diminished and short on political options over Gaza.”

In a briefing by humanitarian groups on Thursday, Bushra Khalidi, Oxfam’s policy lead in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, welcomed Mr Guterres’s invocation of Article 99 as a “critical step” towards addressing the Gaza crisis at the highest levels.

“The forced displacement and the deprivation inflicted upon more than 2 million people in Gaza calls for international intervention to avert a humanitarian disaster and a complete breakdown,” Ms Khalidi said.

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