New York: In a rare move, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter and formally referred the situation in Gaza to the UN Security Council, urging its members to "avert a humanitarian catastrophe" in the besieged enclave, CNN reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, Guterres delivered a letter to the Security Council President, Jose De La Gasca.

In his letter, Guterres said the conflict has created "appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

The UN chief highlighted the plight of Gazan civilians, who he said are facing "grave danger" on a daily basis, CNN reported.

"There is no effective protection of civilians. ... Nowhere is safe in Gaza," Guterres alleged.

"Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defence Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to break down soon due to the desperate situation, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible," he said, warning that the situation could worsen if the spread of disease reaches epidemic proportions and mass displacement creates "pressure" on neighbouring countries.

According to CNN, in the closing paragraph of his letter, Guterres urged Security Council members to "press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe" and support his call for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Article 99 gives the secretary general the remit to "bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

Taking to X, Guterres posted, "I've just invoked Art.99 of the UN Charter - for the 1st time in my tenure as Secretary-General. Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared."

"More than eight weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory," he stated in the letter.

"More than 1,200 people were brutally killed, including 33 children, and thousands were injured in the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on 7 October 2023, which I have repeatedly condemned. Some 250 people were abducted, including 34 children, more than 130 of whom are still captive. They must be immediately and unconditionally released. Accounts of sexual violence during the attacks are appalling," it read further.

He claimed that the civilians in Gaza were facing grave danger, adding that over 15,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the Israeli operations.

"Civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger. Since the start of Israel's military operation, more than 15,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children. Thousands of others have been injured. More than half of all homes have been destroyed. Some 80 per cent of the population of 2.2 million has been forcibly displaced, into increasingly smaller areas. More than 1.1 million people have sought refuge in UNRWA facilities across Gaza, creating overcrowded, undignified, and unhygienic conditions. Others have nowhere to shelter and find themselves on the street. Explosive remnants of war are rendering areas uninhabitable. There is no effective protection of civilians," the UN chief stated in his latter.

"The health care system in Gaza is collapsing. Hospitals have turned into battlegrounds. Only 14 hospitals out of 36 facilities are even partially functional. The two major hospitals in south Gaza are operating at three times their bed capacity and are running out of basic supplies and fuel. They are also sheltering thousands of displaced persons. Under these circumstances, more people will die untreated in the coming days and weeks," he added.