United Nations Security-General Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, stating that the situation in Gaza is “fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole” and that it “may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

In a letter to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, the UN chief said he expects the “public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions” in Gaza, currently under intense Israeli bombardment. He called on the Security Council for swift action to avert such an outcome at all costs.

“The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis,” Guterres said. “I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared. This is urgent.”

This marks the first time the UN chief has invoked Article 99 since taking office in 2017, which is widely seen as the most powerful diplomatic tool at his disposal. The move compels the Security Council to take immediate action regarding the conflict in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli army tanks rolled into the heart of Khan Younis city following a night of persistent artillery shelling and clashes in the Gaza Strip.

The UN special rapporteur has called for an immediate cessation of what he termed a “massacre of civilians.” Gaza hospitals are struggling to cope with a sudden surge in Palestinians requiring urgent medical attention.

A senior Hamas official declared “no negotiations” with Israel until it halts its offensive in Gaza. However, Israeli leaders pledged to press on with the military operation.

Since 7 October, Israel has killed over 16,248 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in its air and ground attacks.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida voiced his concerns in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pointing out the need to minimise civilian casualties and adhere to international law.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority presidency, called for international intervention to halt what he termed the Israeli occupation’s “comprehensive aggression” in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. He accused Israel of “organised terrorism” and held the United States responsible for the escalation. Rudeineh urged the UN Security Council to intervene promptly and stop the bloodshed.