In an expression of alarm and anger over Guterres' remarks, Foreign Minister Cohen wrote on the X platform: "Guterres' tenure is a danger to world peace."

"His request to activate Article 99 and call for a ceasefire in Gaza constitutes support for the Hamas terrorist organization and endorses the killing of the elderly, the abduction of children and the rape of women," he said.

"Whoever supports world peace must support the liberation of Gaza from Hamas," Cohen said.

Earlier, the Secretary-General of the United Nations sent a letter to the Security Council on Gaza, referring for the first time since assuming the Secretariat, to Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations.

In his letter, he said the war in Gaza "could exacerbate existing threats to international peace and security."

Article 99

It has relied on Article 99 of the rarely used Constitution of the United Nations, which authorizes it to "bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that it considers may threaten the protection of international peace and security".

"In the face of the grave danger of the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Security Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe and appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire," Guterres said via platform X.

"The situation could get worse with pandemics and increased pressure for mass movements towards neighbouring countries."

He noted that while humanitarian aid passing through the Rafah crossing "is inadequate, we are simply unable to reach those in need of aid inside Gaza."

"The capacities of the UN and its humanitarian partners have been undermined by supply shortages, fuel shortages, communications disruptions and growing insecurity," he said.

Guterres warned: "We face a great danger of the collapse of the humanitarian system. The situation is rapidly deteriorating towards a catastrophe that could have irreversible consequences for the Palestinians and for peace and security in the region."

"The international community has a responsibility to use its influence to prevent a new escalation and put an end to this crisis," he said, calling on Security Council members to "exert pressure to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe."

"The Secretary-General is referring to one of the rare powers granted to him by the Charter," Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric commented, speaking of a "significant step" because Article 99 has not been invoked "in decades."

"We want to see the Security Council call for a humanitarian ceasefire."

In mid-November, after rejecting four draft resolutions, the Security Council eventually broke its silence and adopted a resolution calling for "truces and corridors for humanitarian aid" in the Gaza Strip.

According to diplomatic sources, Security Council members are working on a new draft resolution focusing on humanitarian aid.

Two months after the outbreak of war in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations had earlier warned of an "even more terrifying scenario" in the Strip that humanitarian operations may not be able to deal with.