|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Just a very few items today.
The Secretary-General briefed the Security Council this morning on the recent situation in Israel and Gaza, in which more than 550 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza into Israel, while the Israel Defense Forces have launched more than 500 airstrikes on Gaza. He said that 88 Palestinians, many of them civilians, are reported to have been killed.
The Secretary-General warned that we face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable — and preventable only if Hamas stops firing rockets. He said that he has consistently condemned indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. At the same time, the excessive use of force and endangering of civilian lives are also intolerable. It is unacceptable for citizens on both sides to permanently live in fear of the next aerial attack. And the Secretary-General’s full remarks are available upstairs.
Also later this afternoon the Security Council will hold closed consultations at 3 p.m. on Burundi and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, will brief on that.
From Lebanon, Ross Mountain, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, visited Hermel and Arsal in north-eastern Lebanon today to review the conditions of displaced Syrians and the Lebanese communities hosting them there. There are more than 376,000 Syrians registered with the UN refugee agency living throughout the Bekaa Valley.
Mr. Mountain met with the local authorities in Hermel and in the border town of Arsal, who briefed him on the humanitarian needs and socioeconomic conditions and some of the difficulties these communities have been facing with the influx of displaced people from Syria.
Mr. Mountain praised the generosity extended by the Lebanese Government and people to the Syrians displaced during the past three years. He said that the United Nations will continue to encourage additional international assistance to help in sharing this burden with Lebanon.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, is in Mali’s Gao region to tour the UN Mission’s facilities in the northern part of the country.
Mr. Ladsous arrived in Mali earlier this week and has held meetings with the country’s authorities and with the Mission’s personnel. He said the meetings provided an opportunity to discuss the implementation of the Security Council’s renewed mandate for the UN Mission, known as MINUSMA. He is scheduled to speak to the press in Bamako tomorrow.
In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern today about the arbitrary arrest, trial and detention of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, including the recent conviction and harsh sentencing of human rights defender Waleed Abu Al-Khair.
Ms. Pillay said she was deeply dismayed over the conviction of Abu Al-Khair, who was sentenced on 6 July to 15 years in prison. She said that his case is a clear illustration of the continuing trend of harassment of Saudi human rights defenders, several of whom have been convicted for peacefully promoting human rights. She urged the Saudi authorities to immediately release all human rights defenders held in connection with their peaceful advocacy of human rights. There’s her statement full statement upstairs.
And that’s it for me. Yes, sir?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. With regard to the Secretary-General statement to the Security Council, he mentioned that he is contact with the Arab leaders, including the President of Egypt, [Abdel Fattah al] Sisi, regarding facilitating using of the crossing point with Egypt. Would the UN consider — humanitarian agencies — consider using the Egyptian airports and ports to transfer humanitarian aid to those who are in Gaza?
Spokesman: I’ll see… if the crossing is open, that is something that we would have to check with our humanitarian colleagues and I will ask my colleagues at OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] if that’s the case. Yes, Ma’am? That’s okay, I’ll wait a long time for you, Evelyn. No problem.
[The Spokesman later added that access for humanitarian staff and goods continues to be open at Rafah. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs welcomes the Egyptian authorities’ opening of Rafah crossing for the evacuation of casualties, and appreciate assurances from the Israeli authorities that Kerem Shalom will remain open to humanitarian supplies to facilitate the relief operations. 172 trucks entered at Kerem Shalom yesterday and today some 180 trucks were scheduled to enter.]
Question: Okay, Stéphane, thanks. The Algerians proposed a meeting on Mali — a regional meeting on Mali next week — with France and UN and who knows who. Is Mr. Ladsous going to attend that or…?
Spokesman: I will check. I just saw those reports as well. We’ll ask his office.
[The Spokesman later said that Mr. Ladsous was not expected to attend that meeting.]
Question: Is that a real thing or something that may not happen? Okay, I’m sorry, as I walked in, and excuse me for being late, but running back and forth to the Council. What did you say Mr. Šimonović was going to do?
Spokesman: He will brief on Burundi.
Spokesman: At 3 p.m. in the Security Council.
Question: Okay, great.
Spokesman: Alright, thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record