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News > World

Guterres Asks UNSC to Avert Humanitarian Catastrophe in Gaza

  • Workers block entrances to the Bournemouth factory, UK, Dec. 6, 2023.

    Workers block entrances to the Bournemouth factory, UK, Dec. 6, 2023. | Photo: X/ @_GeorgieBlaise

Published 7 December 2023

The conflict in Gaza has created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma, the UN Secretary-General said.

On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the Security Council (UNSC)  to act to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.


Israeli Bombs Cause More Deaths and Injuries in Gaza

Guterres wrote to the president of the UNSC to demand action, invoking Article 99 of the United Nations 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."

"The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis. I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared," reads Guterres' letter.

"This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm. With a humanitarian cease-fire, the means of survival can be restored, and humanitarian assistance can be delivered in a safe and timely manner across the Gaza Strip," it states.

Civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger. Since the start of Israel's military operation, more than 15,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 percent of whom were children. Thousands of others have been injured.

More than half of all homes have been destroyed. Some 80 percent 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 UN facilities across Gaza, creating overcrowded, undignified, and unhygienic conditions. Others have nowhere to shelter and find themselves on the street.

Explosive remnants of war are rendering areas uninhabitable. There is no effective protection of civilians. The health care system in Gaza is collapsing. Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds. Only 14 hospitals out of 36 facilities are even partially functional.

The two major hospitals in southern Gaza are operating at three times their bed capacity and are running out of basic supplies and fuel. They are also sheltering thousands of displaced persons. Under these circumstances, more people will die untreated in the coming days and weeks. Nowhere is safe in Gaza, says the letter.

"Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible. An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries," warns Guterres.

The current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted. While delivery of supplies through the Rafah border crossing continues, quantities are insufficient and have dropped since the humanitarian pause came to an end.

"We are simply unable to reach those in need inside Gaza. The capacity of the UN and its humanitarian partners has been decimated by supply shortages, lack of fuel, interrupted communications, and growing insecurity. Humanitarian personnel have joined the vast majority of Gazan civilians in evacuating to south Gaza ahead of advancing military operations."

Guterres also recalled that at least 130 workers of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees have been killed, many with their families, since October 7.

"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. Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost," the UN Secretary-General said.

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