United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that there is no effective protection for civilians in Gaza and called on the UN Security Council to push for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Guterres called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday after weeks of fighting killed more than 17,170 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

“The people of Gaza are staring into the abyss. The international community must do everything possible to put an end to this ordeal. “I call on the Council to spare no effort in pushing for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to protect civilians and for the urgent delivery of life-saving assistance,” he said.

Promising to destroy Hamas, Israel has relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip and deployed tanks and ground troops since the war began on October 7 with unprecedented Hamas attacks on southern Israel. Hamas members killed about 1,200 people and captured about 240 people, of whom 138 were not released, Israel said.

“About 130 hostages are still being held captive. I demand their immediate and unconditional release, as well as their humane treatment and visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross until they are released,” Guterres said.

“At the same time, Hamas’ brutality can never justify collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

Guterres used the rarely used Article 99 of the UN Charter to draw the Council’s attention to “any matter which, in his opinion, may jeopardize the maintenance of international peace and security.”

US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council that the US did not support an immediate ceasefire.

“While the United States strongly supports a lasting peace in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate ceasefire,” he said.

“This would only lay the foundation for the next war,” he added.

Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays said Guterres’ invocation of Article 99 of the UN Charter was extremely rare.

“He [Guterres] has never done it. In fact, this has not been officially asserted since 1989,” Bays said, adding that this was not the case in Syria, Yemen or Ukraine.

“Laws of War”

After Guterres sent the urgent letter, the United Arab Emirates prepared a draft resolution that would be put to a vote, said the delegation from Ecuador, which chairs the council this month and thus decides on scheduling issues.

The document describes the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “catastrophic” and “calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

The Security Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed ceasefire plan later in the day, as several other previous attempts to negotiate a ceasefire were rejected.

The short text also calls for the protection of the civilian population, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages still held by Hamas, and humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

In a report from UN headquarters, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey said “incredibly intensive” diplomatic efforts were underway.

“The US position has not changed. “The US still believes that the best way to get more aid to Gaza is through quiet negotiations underway with Israel and other partners in the region,” she said.

“The diplomatic effort at the United Nations has been incredibly intense,” she said, explaining that Guterres had spoken to key players in the region ahead of the meeting.

Dozens dead in Israeli attacks

Large parts of the Gaza Strip became a wasteland. According to the United Nations, about 80 percent of the population has been displaced due to a lack of food, fuel, water and medicine and the threat of disease.

“International humanitarian law includes the duty to protect civilians and respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution,” Guterres said.

“The law of war also requires that the basic needs of the civilian population must be met, including by facilitating the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance,” he added.

On Friday, the Health Ministry reported that Israeli strikes near Gaza City killed 40 people and killed “dozens” more in Jabalia and Khan Younis.

The Israeli military urged residents of Jabalia, Shujayea and Zeitoun districts in Gaza City to move west.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory’s health ministry said.

Source : www.aljazeera.com

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