UN chief invokes rare Security Council warning on Gaza conflict’s global risks

Click to play video: 'Guterres warns Gaza is at a ‘breaking point,’ conflict could devastate entire region'
Guterres warns Gaza is at a ‘breaking point,’ conflict could devastate entire region
WATCH: Guterres warns Gaza is at a ‘breaking point,’ conflict could devastate entire region – Dec 8, 2023

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a rare move on Wednesday to formally warn the Security Council of a global threat from the Gaza conflict as Arab states seek to leverage that to renew a push for the council to call for a ceasefire.

The United States, one of five veto powers on the 15-member council, is opposed to a ceasefire between its ally Israel and Hamas because it believes such a move would only benefit the Palestinian militants.

Washington does support humanitarian pauses to protect civilians and allow for the release of hostages taken by Hamas in an Oct. 7 attack on Israel. It abstained last month to allow the Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for pauses in fighting.

Guterres told the council in a letter that the Gaza conflict “may aggravate existing threats to international peace and security.”

He invoked Article 99 of the founding U.N. Charter that allows him to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

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Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas conflict enters new phase as U.S. calls for restraint'
Israel-Hamas conflict enters new phase as U.S. calls for restraint

The article has not been used for decades, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

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“We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system. 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,” Guterres wrote.

“Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost,” he said, again calling for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Guterres’ letter.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington had seen the letter but declined to comment on it specifically, adding that the United States would continue to consult with Guterres and members of the UN Security Council.

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“Of course there are threats to regional security and threats to global security that are presented by this conflict. We said that in the very aftermath of October 7th, and we made quite clear that one of the things that we are trying to do is prevent this conflict from spreading,” Miller told reporters at a regular news briefing.

Click to play video: '‘Just take us to the grave’: Civilians in Gaza decry latest bombing of Khan Younis'
‘Just take us to the grave’: Civilians in Gaza decry latest bombing of Khan Younis

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour on Wednesday said Arab diplomats were “fine-tuning” a draft Security Council resolution to call for a ceasefire. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain.

Mansour said Arab ministers were due to visit Washington on Thursday and would discuss the measure with U.S. officials.

“On top of the agenda is this war has to stop. A ceasefire has to take place and it has to take place immediately,” he told reporters.

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Israel unleashed its military campaign to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 attack in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 240 hostages seized. Figures relayed by Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry put the death toll in the Palestinian enclave since then at 16,015.

Guterres told the Security Council in his letter that there was no effective protection of civilians in Gaza.

“Nowhere is safe in Gaza,” he wrote.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Katharine Jackson; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool)

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