The United States on Friday vetoed a United Nations Security Council demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire Gaza.
Article 99, which is contained in Chapter XV of the U.N. Charter, states, “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.”
U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called Guterres’ use of Article 99 a “dramatic constitutional move” that the Secretary-General hoped would put more pressure on the U.N. Security Council— and the global community at large—to demand a ceasefire between the warring parties, Israel and Hamas.
“I think it’s arguably the most important invocation,” Dujarric told reporters at U.N. Headquarters on Wednesday, “in my opinion, the most powerful tool that [the Secretary-General] has.”
Earlier that day, the 22-nation Arab Group at the U.N. strongly backed a cease-fire. A short draft resolution circulated to Security Council members by the United Arab Emerates, based on the invocation of Article 99, demanded “an immediate humanitarian cease-fire” amid “grave concern over the catastrophic situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population.”
However, the United States, which has veto power on such resolutions, joined Israel in opposing a ceasefire because they believe it would only benefit Hamas.
A day before Guterres invoked Article 99, U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said that the role of the Security Council in the Israel-Hamas war is not to get in the way of important diplomacy taking place, adding that a Security Council resolution at this time “would not be useful.”
The veto was expected in Friday’s vote.
In fact, Article 99 is extremely rarely invoked. The last time it occurred was during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh and its separation from Pakistan.
Guterres invoked it this week because he reportedly believes that humanitarian operations in Gaza are collapsing. In his letter, he warned that “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.”
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan has accused Guterres of invoking Article 99 to pressure Israel, calling the move “a new moral low” and “bias against Israel.”
In his letter, though, Guterres also denounced the “the abhorrent acts of terror” by Hamas and the brutal killing of more than 1,200 people in Israel—though he also pointed to the worsening state of Gaza under ongoing bombardment as Israel attempts to obliterate Hamas.
More than 16,200 people have been killed during the two-month-long war, and some 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been forcibly displaced.