The UN Security Council was set to meet Friday for a vote on a resolution urging an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, after UN chief Antonio Guterres took the extraordinary step earlier in the week of invoking the UN charter’s Article 99 to call the vote.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that since Wednesday the UN chief had spoken with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and their counterparts from several other countries.
Four earlier drafts presented since the war broke out were rejected by the Security Council. Even if brought to a vote, the resolution was likely to be vetoed by the US, and possibly others.
The United States has said a new resolution from the council at this stage would not be “useful,” and is thought likely to wield its Security Council veto and shield Israel from any such step.
“We again think that the best thing that we can do, all of us, for the situation on the ground, is to let the quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy that is happening, continue,” deputy US ambassador Robert Wood said Thursday.
The US has said it continues to support Israel’s military objectives in its war with Hamas. Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said Thursday: “Frankly, if the war were stopped today, [Hamas] would continue to pose [a threat], which is why we’re not in place yet of asking Israel to stop or for a ceasefire.”
The latest version of the resolution seen by AFP, proposed by the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the Security Council, calls the humanitarian situation in Gaza “catastrophic” and “demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
The short text also calls for the protection of civilians, the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages Hamas is still holding, and humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.
War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people — most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes, communities and at a music festival, amid horrific atrocities — and seizing over 240 hostages, under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.
In response, Israel launched a military campaign aiming to destroy the terror group’s military and governance capabilities, and to secure the return of the hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the total death toll stands at over 17,000, mostly women and minors. The figures and their breakdown cannot be verified, but the total number is largely in line with an assessment by Israel, which said it believes more than 5,000 of those killed are Hamas operatives.
Israel says it is making an effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting a terror group embedded within the civilian population. It has long accused Gaza-based terror groups of using Palestinians in the Strip as human shields, operating from sites including schools and hospitals which are supposed to be protected.
A seven-day truce in the last week of November gave a brief respite from fighting, during which time 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity in Gaza, including 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino, in exchange for 210 Palestinian prisoners, all of them women or minors. Israel also allowed an influx of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
Still held hostage by Gaza terror groups when the truce collapsed were 137 people — 115 men, 20 women and two children.
Guterres on Wednesday invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter — last used over half a century ago — which says the secretary-general may inform the council of matters he believes threaten international peace and security.
Israel came out strongly against the rare move, with Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan calling for the UN chief’s resignation, and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen claiming the call for a ceasefire “constitutes support” for Hamas.
Article 99 gives an important additional power to the secretary-general, since the real power at the UN is held by its 193 member nations and especially the 15 countries that serve on the Security Council. It was last invoked was during fighting in 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh and its separation from Pakistan.
Guterres believes that the humanitarian system and the humanitarian operations in Gaza are collapsing, warning in his letter that in the current situation, “amid constant bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces and without shelter or essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.”
He said the situation could get even worse, pointing to possible epidemics and the mass displacement of Palestinians into neighboring countries.
Previous secretaries-general have brought threats that they saw to international peace and security to the Security Council without mentioning Article 99. This includes Congo in 1960, the US hostage crisis in Iran that began in November 1979, the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 and more recently Myanmar in 2017.
The Times of Israel staff and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.