HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY VANNINA MAESTRACCI,
ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 4 AUGUST 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL STRONGLY CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN GAZA AND UPSURGE IN ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACKS
- The Secretary-General has strongly condemned the killing of at least 10 Palestinian civilians in shelling outside of a school in Rafah, run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that was providing shelter to thousands of civilians. The attack is yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly requires protection by both parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and UN premises, among other civilian facilities.
- The Secretary-General made clear that UN shelters must be safe zones not combat zones. He said that this attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable.
- Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, said that the incident in Rafah is a further tragic and unacceptable reminder that there is nowhere safe in Gaza for people to take refuge. No one feels secure and given that Gaza is enclosed by a barrier, there is also nowhere safe for them to run.
- Mr. Krähenbühl reminded the parties that they must respect the sanctity of civilian life, the inviolability of UN property and that they must abide their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.
- The Secretary-General also deplored the recent upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, particularly in Europe, in connection with protests concerning the escalation of violence in Gaza.
- The Secretary-General emphasizes that the conflict in the Middle East must not constitute a pretext for prejudice that could affect social peace and harmony anywhere. He firmly believes that the conflict needs to be solved through an immediate cessation of violence and negotiations.
- Senior UN humanitarian officials in Gaza have warned that a health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding there as a direct result of the conflict. After more than three weeks of intense conflict, Gaza’s medical services and facilities are on the verge of collapse.
- One third of hospitals, 14 primary health care clinics and 29 Palestinian Red Crescent and Ministry of Health ambulances have been damaged in the fighting. At least 40 per cent of medical staff are unable to get to their places of work, such as clinics and hospitals, due to widespread violence and at least half of all public health primary care clinics are closed.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that, according to preliminary data, at least 1,777 Palestinians have been killed. Of that number, 1,242 people are civilians, including 393 children and 208 women. More than 8,000 Palestinians have been injured. Also, a total of 66 Israelis have been killed, including two civilians and 64 soldiers. One foreign national has also been killed in Israel.
SECRETARY-GENERAL ALARMED BY NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE IN IRAQ
- The Secretary-General expressed his alarm that the Islamic State forces had taken over the districts of Sinjar and Tal Afar in Ninewa Province, Iraq.
- The Secretary-General continues to remind parties that any systematic attack on civilians or segments of the civilian population because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity and those responsible must be held accountable. He once more called upon the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to put their differences aside and work closely together in addressing the urgent security needs of the country.
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, called the situation in Sinjar a humanitarian tragedy. The violence has displaced some 200,000 civilians so far. Displaced families are urgently in need of basic items, including food, water and shelter.
- The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) says that it is likely that displaced people from Sinjar, which is located near the Syria border, are surrounded by the Islamic State forces due to reported armed clashes in the north of Sinjar.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is working with the UN mission and humanitarian partners to obtain more information on the situation in the area and determine how best to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance. UN agencies have dispatched aid supplies including food, bottled water, tents and hygiene kits.
AFGHANISTAN: U.N. CONTINUES TO URGE FULL COMMITMENT BY PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES TO COMPLETE AUDIT PROCESS
- As the audit process continues for the results of Afghanistan’s Presidential election run-off, the UN in Afghanistan has urged the full commitment by the parties to complete that process without any further delays and interruption.
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, said that the world body was jointly requested by the two Presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and also separately by the authorities of Afghanistan, to carry out its current role of coordinating international supervision of the audit of the run-off.
- A round-the-clock airlift operation was jointly launched by the International Security Assistance Force and the UN to retrieve all of the approximately 23,000 ballot boxes to Kabul so that they can be audited under the full scrutiny of domestic and international observers, candidate agents, UN advisers and the media.
U.N. ENVOY IN LEBANON CONDEMNS ATTACKS VIOLENCE IN ARSAL
- Ross Mountain, the Acting UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon, has strongly condemned the attacks on Lebanese Armed Forces positions, and the violence in and around the town of Arsal yesterday. Those attacks led to the deaths, injury and abduction of soldiers and member of the security forces and caused civilian fatalities and injuries.
- The UN is committed to the stability and security of Lebanon and the Acting Special Coordinator reiterates the UN’s strong support for the Lebanese Armed Forces and the security forces of Lebanon in their efforts to achieve this goal.
U.N. WELCOMES CONVENING OF LIBYA’S COUNCIL OF REPRESENTATIVES
- The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has welcomed the convening of the Council of Representatives. It calls this a step that reflects the genuine will of the Libyan people to see that the democratic process and its outcomes are respected.
- The mission hopes that the elected Council will lead the efforts to safeguard the security, safety, unity and sovereignty of Libya, and help to create an environment that fosters an inclusive political dialogue.
- The mission also continues to condemn the violence in Tripoli and Benghazi, and the devastating impact on the lives of civilians. It has called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.
ANNUAL SOUTH ASIAN RAINS TRIGGER DEADLY LANDSLIDES IN INDIA AND NEPAL
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that over 100 people were reportedly killed by a landslide in the Pune district of Maharashtra state in Western India. The landslide swept through the village of Malin on 30 July, following weeks of heavy monsoon rains. A further 60 people are still missing and feared dead.
- The Government of India has led the response. Around 350 personnel form the National Disaster Response Force are working to clear the debris and recover bodies. Their work is hampered by continued heavy rain. OCHA's Asia Pacific regional office in Bangkok has been in close contact with Indian authorities since the landslide.
- The annual South Asian rains triggered a separate landslide in north-east Nepal on 2 August. So far, at least 10 deaths have been confirmed, with rescuers recovering bodies from devastated villages in Sindhupalchok district, about 120 km north-east of Kathmandu. Authorities fear the death toll could climb above 150.
- The landslide is blocking the Sunkoshi river, forming a lake which is threatening to cause flash flooding further downstream. Authorities in Nepal and eastern India are evacuating thousands of people along the riverbank, including 65,000 from India's Bihar state. Nepalese workers are attempting to clear the blockage.
- The Government of Nepal is leading the response, with support from India and OCHA. The National Emergency Operations Centre has asked for health, food, shelter, water and sanitation, and logistics support. The Resident Coordinator is working with humanitarian agencies on the ground to prepare a response.