UN Chief invokes Article 99, warning Israel’s war on Gaza threatens ‘international peace and security’ – Mondoweiss

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Casualties

  • 15,899+ killed*, including 6,150 children, and 42,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 473 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2023; 265 since October 7.

*This figure was confirmed by the Gaza Ministry of Health on December 5. However, due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip (particularly in northern Gaza), the Gaza Ministry of Health has been unable to regularly and accurately update its tolls since mid-November. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to or above 20,000.

Key Developments 

  • In rare move, UN chief invokes Article 99 to warn Security Council that the war in Gaza “may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”
  • Another Israeli airstrike on Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza kills scores of people, including 22 family members of Al Jazeera reporter Moamen Al Sharafi. 
  • Under cover of war, Israel approves new illegal settlement in occupied East Jerusalem comprising 1,738 housing units.
  • Ambulance center in northern Gaza halts due to the depletion of fuel for vehicles and hospital closures, making evacuation of wounded and dead impossible, says Palestinian Red Crescent Society
  • About 25 percent of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, has received evacuation orders, says OCHA.
  • Israeli forces kill two Palestinians during separate military incursions, including a Palestinian child, overnight on Wednesday. 
  • Israel approves provocative march by far-right Israeli settler in occupied East Jerusalem before reaching al-Aqsa Mosque, demanding complete Israeli control of the Muslim holy site. 

 ‘Every day is a struggle’

Israel’s ruthless attacks, the brutal military siege, and the displacement of over a million people in the space of two months, have left the Gaza Strip in ruins and its population severely traumatized, sick, injured, starving, and, in most cases, homeless.  

In only seven weeks, Israel has flattened entire neighborhoods in northern Gaza and severely damaged over 60 percent of its buildings. 

The extent of destruction has approached levels seen during the years-long carpet bombing of German cities during World War II, according to a report by the Financial Times.

“Gaza will also go down as a place name denoting one of history’s heaviest conventional bombing campaigns,” U.S. military historian Robert Pape told the Financial Times. 

The Red Crescent is actively working to distribute aid in Gaza but stresses that what people receive is “barely scratching the surface.” 

“Being a Palestinian now means you have to choose between the bad and the worse,” Nebal Farsakh, spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, told Al Jazeera.

“From what we see on the ground, most Palestinians are struggling to have one meal with very basic things. It’s a miracle to have food for your family,” Farsakh said, adding that surviving the bombs is not enough. 

“Conditions required to deliver aid do not exist. UNRWA shelters are overflowing,” UNRWA said on X. “There is not enough aid to meet the overwhelming needs. UNRWA operations are being strangled.”

“Life is very terrifying and uncertain. You don’t know if your area is going to be bombed next. I live in the center of Khan Younis, I imagine Israeli forces are at the other side.” Mohammed Ghalayini, a British Palestinian trapped in Khan Younis, told Al Jazeera. “Every day is a struggle. Myself and my relatives just spent three hours filling up water containers as the main supply was on for the first time in 10 days.” 

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 25 percent of Khan Younis in southern Gaza has received evacuation orders. 

Ghalayini and his family are among them. When Al Jazeera asked why he hadn’t tried to flee the city, Ghalayini responded: “Would you leave your home if you were ordered to do so by someone more powerful than you? People don’t want to leave because these are our homes. Also, leaving does not guarantee well-being. Nowhere is safe from the arm of the brutal Israeli military that is carrying out a textbook case of genocide.”

Following the evacuation notice, Israel showered residents of Khan Younis with leaflets quoting a Quran verse, “The flood overtook them as they were wrongdoers,” on Wednesday, leading Palestinians to believe even worse attacks are coming. 

On Wednesday, yet another Israeli airstrike on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza killed scores of people, including 22 family members, including several children, of Al Jazeera reporter Moamen Al Sharafi. 

“None of the civil defense crews were able to reach their bodies,” Sharafi said, “we are prevented from saying goodbye to our loved ones and are deprived of giving them a proper burial.”

“We were carpet bombed, and this is a densely populated area with very narrow alleys,” a man in Jabalia told Al Jazeera following yet another Israeli attack in the area. 

“We cannot recover the wounded or even bury our dead. The world has abandoned us. This is hell. The north of Gaza has been wiped out completely,” he continued. 

In another area of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, two young sisters were rescued after being stuck underneath the rubble of a poultry hatchery for four days. 

About 72 adults and 62 children were sheltering in the same building in the central town of Deir al-Balah when it was hit by an Israeli airstrike four days ago, according to Al Jazeera, who spoke to the young girls. 

“I was trying to get out, but there were many stones above us,” Maria Abu Safi said. “We stayed four days under the rubble with no food or drink.”

“Israel has effectively destroyed every single requirement for life in the Gaza Strip while the entire world was watching, and it is still shelling neighborhoods as we speak,” Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said, addressing the assembly of parties to the Rome Statute, which underpins the International Criminal Court.

“It has made of hospitals and UN shelters and mosques and churches its primary targets, and it has made of children, of the sick and the wounded, of the vulnerable, its primary victims. Why did we adopt the Rome Statute if not to protect these people?” he continued. 

Article 99: ‘Threats to international peace and security’

As the situation in Gaza escalates, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 on Gaza, the most potent diplomatic tool at his disposal, appealing for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared in Gaza.

“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,” outlines article 99.

“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 said in a letter addressed to the UN Security Council.

“Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost,” he continued, calling on the international community to fulfill its “responsibility” and “use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis.”

The Secretary-General’s letter was met with an outpour of support from human rights organizations and a handful of international leaders. 

Describing the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza as “unbearable,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez voiced his support for Guterres’s call for the UN Security Council to address the war in Gaza in a post on X.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, is also urging EU members of the UN Security Councile “and like-minded partners” to support Guterres’s call, adding that they “must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is among them, adding that “Gaza’s health system is on its knees and near total collapse. We need peace for health.”

“The pressure is now on Biden not to veto a UN Security Council demand for a ceasefire in Gaza. Biden knows that the incessant bombing of Gaza is not going to ‘destroy Hamas.’ How many more dead Palestinian civilians are needed to make that point,” said Kenneth Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch. 

Political analyst Anthony Arend of Georgetown University believes Guterres’s move is “a very important action … to force a discussion.”

Still, Guterres “cannot force the Security Council to adopt a resolution,” he told Al Jazeera

“He can force a discussion, he can bring the parties together and encourage them to reach some kind of compromise. But because of the veto at the Security Council, the only way the Security Council can adopt a substantive resolution on this issue is for each of the five permanent members to choose not to veto it,” Arend continued. 

Provocative far-left Israeli march 

In Occupied East Jerusalem, far-right Israeli activists are planning a march on Thursday, approved by Israeli police, through Jerusalem’s Muslim quarter before reaching al- Aqsa Mosque, demanding complete Israeli control of the Muslim holy site. 

The Palestinian foreign ministry is calling for the international community to halt the “provocative” march, which calls for the revocation of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf, which manages the site. 

Jordan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying this is an “attempt to change the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem and its holy sites,” which is “an unacceptable, condemnable and provocative step,” adding that it will inflame the already volatile situation. 

Even Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s oppositional leader, has criticized the approval of the march, calling it a “violent provocation.”

“The march in Jerusalem tonight is a blatant Kahanist attempt to set fire to more arenas and cause more destruction and death,” Lapid said on X

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have barred all Muslim worshippers, except Old City residents above the age of 50, from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. 

“The imposition of entry bans on Muslim worshippers for 60 consecutive days is unprecedented and incomparable to any limitations imposed by Israeli police in past crises,” the Israeli group Ir Amim said, as cited by Al Jazeera.

“The current restrictions mean that for the past two months nearly the entire Muslim population — both citizens of Israel and East Jerusalem residents — who regularly frequent the holy place are prohibited from entering,” the group continued, adding that the severe violation of Muslim rights of worship is a grave breach of the status quo, “which in the past has led to an escalation of hostilities in Jerusalem.”

Israel has also approved a new settlement in occupied East Jerusalem comprising 1,738 housing units. These Jewish-only settlements are considered illegal under international law. The approval was issued while Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza continues to occupy the limelight. 

Israeli forces kill 16-year-old in West Bank

Similarly, Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank are reaching record-breaking numbers with minimal media coverage, as Israeli forces detain tens of Palestinians almost every night during incursions, which often turn deadly. 

Overnight on Wednesday, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians during separate raids, including a Palestinian child. 

Israeli forces fatally shot  16-year-old Omar Mahmoud Abu Baker in the chest in the town of Ya’bad, southwest of Jenin. 

In Balata refugee camp, in the northern city of Nablus, Israeli forces shot 24-year-old Palestinian Abdul Nasser Mustafa Riyahi in the head.

The raids took place all across the occupied West Bank, including in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Nablus.

The largest raid was in Tulkarem, where Israeli forces deployed at least 30 armored vehicles and surrounded all entrances to the Nur Shams refugee camp, according to Al Jazeera Arabic

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Israeli fire has killed 473 Palestinians in the West Bank 2023, including 265 people after October 7.

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