Guterres invokes Article 99 of UN Charter; Arab Group preparing resolution for immediate ceasefire in Gaza - as it happened

Ahram Online , Wednesday 6 Dec 2023

The UN secretary-general invokes Article 99 of the UN Charter; the Arab Group is preparing a draft resolution for an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza; relentless Israeli bombing on civilian targets raises death toll by the hour; Israel announces 10 of its officers and soldiers killed in battles

6 December
Palestinian children collect food at a donation point provided by a charity group in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on December 6, 2023. AFP


23:00 It was another trying day for 2.4 million Palestinians under Israeli bombardment and siege in the Gaza Strip.

Photographers captured the plight of some Palestinian refugees who escaped intensive Israeli airstrikes on their homes in Khan Younis in the south of the strip as they set up tents and queued for some soup to stay alive.

22:45 G7 leaders reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution to the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict in a statement issued after a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

"We remain committed to a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution that enables both Israelis and Palestinians to live in a just, lasting, and secure peace," they said.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities approved the construction of more than 1,700 new homes, a non-governmental organization said Wednesday, a move constituting the expansion of settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

22:15 Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians, one of them a teenager, in the north of the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Abdul Nasser Mustafa Riyahi, 24, died from his wounds after the Israeli army shot him in the head in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, according to the ministry.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israeli forces had burst into the camp in the morning and surrounded a house.

"Confrontations broke out during which the soldiers opened live fire at the Palestinians injuring four. One of them later died of his wounds," it said.

Earlier, the health ministry said Israeli troops had killed two Palestinians elsewhere in the West Bank's north.

It said Abdul Rahman Imad Khaled Bani Odeh, 16, and Moath Ibrahim Zahran, 23, were killed by Israeli fire in the village of Tamun and the nearby Al-Fara refugee camp.

An AFP correspondent in Tamun saw Israeli soldiers enter the village to make arrests and witnessed clashes breaking out with residents.

This brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israel in raids in the West Bank since 7 October closer and closer to 250, including 65 minors.

Israel has also arrested more than 3,500 Palestinians in the occupied territories in the same period.

21:45 The US State Department said that Washington is discussing with partners the idea of ​​deploying international security forces in Gaza, however, it stated that it is too early to determine any conclusive solution to the situation in Gaza after the war, Al Arabiya reported.

The State Department said that it cannot immediately determine the duration of the transitional period in Gaza after the end of the war, stressing that the US will object to any proposed buffer zone if it is within the Gaza borders.

21:30 The Israeli army spokesperson announced that Israel lost 10 of its officers and soldiers in what it described as fierce battles with Palestinian factions in the last 24 hours.

This brings the announced death toll among Israeli soldiers since the start of a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to 95.

20:00 The Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres wrote a letter to the president of the Security Council invoking Article 99 of the UN's 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 humanitarian conditions amid the war in Gaza are "fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole," Guterres said in the letter.

"Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs," he stressed.

It is the first time the UN chief has invoked the article since taking office in 2017.

The rotating presidency of the Security Council is currently held by Ecuador.

Urging the members of the Security Council to "press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe," Guterres reiterated his appeal for "a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared."

"The health care system in Gaza is collapsing," he said, adding that "there is no effective protection of civilians."

"The current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted," the letter said, adding that "nowhere is safe in Gaza."

The situation threatens "peace and security in the region," Guterres said.

"With a humanitarian ceasefire, the means of survival can be restored, and humanitarian assistance can be delivered in a safe and timely manner across the Gaza Strip."
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip set up a tent camp in Rafah on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. AP

19:30 The permanent representative of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine to the United Nations said on Wednesday the Arab Group is preparing a draft resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

18:45 An exodus of Palestinians from Gaza into neighbouring countries would be "catastrophic," the United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told AFP in an interview Wednesday, stressing the need for a ceasefire.

"I hope that there will not be a regional exodus of Palestinians," Grandi said.

"It is very, very important to address (the humanitarian crisis and insufficient aid going into Gaza) to prevent an exodus that would be really catastrophic."

18:30 Volker Turk, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, highlighted that asserted that Israel had not responded to his repeated requests for access to independently investigate the Israeli allegations of sexual violence by Hamas fighters during their October 7 operation.

Turk confirmed in a press conference that for weeks he had "asked the Israeli authorities... to deploy a team, my team, to monitor, document, investigate the issues of the horrific attacks on Israelis."

"I've repeated this call and I hope it will be heard but so far, I haven't received a response."

Various Israeli claims regarding what happened in the Hamas operation in the Gaza Envelope on 7 October, including claims of 40 beheaded babies, have not been verified by independent parties.

18:00 Palestinians continued to bury their dead in mass graves as the intensity of Israeli airstrikes on the civilian population left no time for individualized burials.

Al Jazeera cameras captured some difficult moments as residents of Deil Al-Balah in central Gaza buried 50 people killed in Israeli airstrikes earlier on Wednesday.

17:00 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel that there would be serious consequences if Israel pressed ahead with a threat to attack Hamas officials on Turkish soil.

The Turkish leader also said his country has petitioned the International Criminal Court for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes in Gaza.

His comments, made Tuesday and reported by Turkish media on Wednesday, echoed warnings from other Turkish officials in response to the head of Israel’s domestic security agency, Shin Bet, who said in an audio recording that his organization is prepared to destroy Hamas “in every place,” including in Lebanon, Turkey, and Qatar.

16:30 Al Jazeera announced that the parents of its journalist Moamen Al-Sharafi and a number of his siblings as well as other members of his extended family were killed in an Israeli bombing on a home in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. 

Moamen said that the occupation forces targeted the house that sheltered his already-displaced family, killing everyone inside.

He added that his last contact with his family was a voice message from his mother a few days before her death.

She expressed how much she misses him and her hope of meeting him after the war, added Moamen.

16:00 The Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada visited Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to show solidarity for the Palestinian people and their leadership in the face of the ongoing Israeli war against the Gaza Strip, according to Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, Vice President Rosario Murillo described the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip as "brutal." 

15:00 Cyprus says several countries have offered to store humanitarian assistance in the east Mediterranean island nation as part of a plan to ship the aid to Gaza via a maritime corridor.

The countries include the UK, which last week sent humanitarian aid that is being stored at Larnaca port, from where ships will depart for Gaza once conditions on the ground in the territory allow for it, government spokesperson Constantinos Letymbiotis said Wednesday.

14:00 NBC reported that a group of 40 interns in the White House and other executive branch offices signed a letter addressed to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris calling for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and accusing the president of having ignored the pleas of the American people.

"We, the undersigned Fall 2023 White House and Executive Office of the President interns, will no longer remain silent on the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people," the interns wrote.

“We heed the voices of the American people and call on the Administration to demand a permanent ceasefire,” the interns wrote. “We are not the decision makers of today, but we aspire to be the leaders of tomorrow, and we will never forget how the pleas of the American people have been heard and thus far, ignored.” 

13:00  The Israeli army has surrounded a home in Khan Younis belonging to Hamas Gaza Chief Yahya Sinwar, Al Arabiya reports.

There is no indication that Sinwar is in the building. Not only does the Palestinian leader own multiple homes, but he is in hiding.

The channel says Israeli troops have surrounded the building since yesterday.

Israel has said that Sinwar is “a dead man walking.”

12:40  Head of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini said that over 600,000 people are under evacuation orders in southern Gaza. "Nearly half of them were already forced to leave their homes previously," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

He also warned that, for Gazans, "there is nowhere to go as shelters, including UNRWA, are beyond & over their capacity."

12:35  Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has said the residence visa of Lynn Hastings - the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories - will be revoked over what Cohen said was her refusal to speak out against Hamas.

Accusing the UN of "bias," Cohen wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter: "Someone who did not condemn Hamas for the brutal massacre of 1,200 Israelis, for the kidnapping of babies and the elderly and for the horrific acts of abuse and rape, and for using the residents of Gaza as human shields, but instead condemns Israel, a democratic country that protects its citizens, cannot serve in the UN and cannot enter Israel!"



Israel has consistently criticized the United Nations for its response to attacks on 7 October carried out by Hamas.

Hastings has been a vocal critic of Israel’s war on Gaza and has led appeals for increased humanitarian aid in Gaza.

On Monday, a statement by Hastings read: "The conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza do not exist. If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond."

She said a lack of clean drinking water, sanitation, and poor nutrition for people is a "textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster."

12:30  According to some US media reports, White House officials have suggested Israel could finish its large-scale military operations in southern Gaza by January and then move to more targeted attacks on Hamas, the BBC said.

Citing multiple senior administration officials, CNN says there is concern from White House officials over how the Israeli army's offensive will pan out in the coming weeks, adding that the officials have warned Israel to limit damage and civilian casualties.

But a senior official quoted in the report says they are not comfortable using the word “receptive” to describe Israel’s response to US advice.

“We are in a high-intensity operation in the coming weeks, then probably moving to a low-intensity mode,” an Israeli official told CNN.

Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas militants continue on December 5, 2023. AFP

12:18  Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are living in "utter, deepening horror," UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said as he called for an urgent ceasefire.

"Civilians in Gaza continue to be relentlessly bombarded by Israel and collectively punished... Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror," he told a press conference.

12:15 The Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza has recorded 73 new deaths and 123 injuries over the past 24 hours, according to the Gaza health ministry.

11:00 The top diplomats from China and the United States discussed the Israeli war on Gaza in a call on Wednesday, Beijing and Washington said, agreeing on the need to de-escalate the war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken "reiterated the imperative of all parties working to prevent the conflict from spreading," according to the US State Department.

Beijing said Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed in turn that "the top priority is to cease fire and end the war as soon as possible."

"Major countries must adhere to fairness and justice, uphold objectivity and impartiality, demonstrate calm and rationality, and make every effort to cool down the situation and prevent larger-scale humanitarian disasters," Wang said, according to the foreign ministry.

He reiterated Beijing's call for a two-state solution to the conflict, stressing that "any arrangement involving the future of Palestine must reflect the will of the Palestinian people."

"China is willing to work with all parties to make efforts to this end," he said.

Blinken also told Wang on Wednesday that recent attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels posed an "unacceptable threat" to maritime security, State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said.

The two sides also agreed to build on "progress made on key issues" during a summit between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last month in California, which led to military communications between the two countries being restored.

But Wang also warned Blinken against US support for the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory and has vowed to seize one day.

The United States must not "support or indulge any 'Taiwan independence' forces," Wang said.



10:00 Israeli forces battled Hamas fighters across Gaza after expanding their ground war to its second-largest city.

The assault on the south threatens further mass displacement within the besieged coastal enclave, where the U.N. says some 1.87 million people — over 80% of the population — have already fled their homes.

Much of the north, including large parts of Gaza City, has been completely destroyed, and Palestinians fear the rest of Gaza could suffer a similar fate. 

Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers were seen on Tuesday near southern Gaza's city of Khan Yunis, forcing already displaced civilians to pack up and flee again, witnesses told AFP.

"Our forces are now encircling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip," Israel's army chief Herzi Halevi said late Tuesday.

"We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south."

The fighting on Tuesday was "the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation" in late October, the army's Southern Command chief Major General Yaron Finkelman said.

The latest toll from the Palestinian media office said 16,248 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, had been killed.



9:00 The Health Ministry in Gaza says 16,248 Palestinians have been killed and more than 42,000 wounded since the Israeli war on Gaza broke out two months ago.

The ministry said that the death toll includes more than 6,000 children and more than 4,000 women. 

The figures show a sharp rise in deaths since a weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed on 1 December. Since the resumption of fighting Friday, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry.

The United States had urged Israel to do more to protect Palestinian civilians as its blistering air and ground campaign shifted to southern Gaza, particularly in and around Khan Younis, the territory’s second-largest city.

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