HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL: PRICE OF GAZA CEASEFIRE ‘ALMOST TOO MUCH TO BEAR’
- The Secretary-General spoke at today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza, telling the Member States that it seems that the long-overdue ceasefire there is holding. For the moment, he said, the near constant firing of Hamas rockets and Israeli missiles and mortars has subsided.
- The Secretary-General added that we cannot rest as the suffering continues. This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear.
- He said that we must spare no effort to turn the current calm into a durable ceasefire that addresses the underlying issues of the conflict: ending rocket fire from Gaza, weapons smuggling, opening the crossings, lifting the blockade and bringing Gaza back under one Palestinian Government that accepts and adheres to the PLO commitments.
- He also discussed the attacks that hit UN premises and emphasized that the UN flag must be respected and assure protection to those in need. UN shelters must be safe zones, not combat zones.
- The Secretary-General thanked UN staff in Gaza for their bravery and sacrifice and paid tribute to the staff members who have died during the conflict. Tomorrow, he said, the UN flag will be flown at half-mast in their memory.
SENIOR U.N. OFFICIALS SPOTLIGHT IMPACT OF GAZA CONFLICT
- Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, also briefed the General Assembly today, speaking from Cairo, and he discussed efforts to obtain a prolonged ceasefire. He said that Gaza’s legal crossings must be opened, in a way that is compatible with Israel’s security concerns. He also discussed the importance of bringing the Palestinian Authority back to Gaza.
- Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), spoke to the Member States from Gaza, and he said that 90 of the Agency’s premises were hit during the conflict. He said that UNRWA has asked for investigations to be carried out regarding the attacks on Agency-run schools that had been sheltering displaced Gazans.
- Kyung-hwa Kang, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, discussed the toll of the conflict, saying that more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed. Of those identified, at least 1,300 were civilians, including more than 400 children and 200 women. Meanwhile, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed. Ms. Kang added that more than half a million people, or over one quarter of the population of Gaza, were displaced by the conflict.
- Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, talked about the need for accountability. She said that the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry established last month by the Human Rights Council will be presented in March 2015 and should be carefully considered and followed with appropriate action.
- Also today, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said that her organization’s immediate priorities include removing rubble, restoring solid waste systems, rebuilding homes and creating jobs and livelihoods.
SOUTH SUDAN ON ‘BRINK OF HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE,’ U.N. OFFICIAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
- The Security Council was briefed this morning by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, on the latest developments in South Sudan.
- He said that South Sudan was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and a protracted internal conflict. He added that both sides continue to believe that they can achieve more through the pursuit of a military option.
- Mr. Mulet said there was an urgent need for the international community to speak with one voice so that the parties would participate meaningfully in the peace talks and warn them of the consequences of impeding the peace process.
- He stressed that the parties needed to reach an agreement without further delay on how to end the conflict and embark on the path of reconciliation.
- This afternoon, the Security Council will meet on the situation in Burundi.
- Also on South Sudan, further to what we told you yesterday on the situation in Bunj in Upper Nile State, the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) reports that approximately 110 peacekeepers arrived in Bunj earlier today to protect United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as well as civilians who have taken refuge in United Nations facilities.
- The peacekeepers are in the process of collecting national staff members of humanitarian aid organizations deemed to be at risk and who need to be evacuated as soon as possible.
- The Mission reports that about 220 NGO and UN international staff were flown out of Bunj today. Some 80 were brought to Juba and the remainder landed in Malakal. Evacuation operations are expected to continue tomorrow.
UKRAINE: UNTIL VIOLENCE ENDS, HUMAN SUFFERING WILL INCREASE – U.N. RELIEF OFFICIAL
- Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council held an open meeting on Ukraine.
- Speaking on behalf of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, John Ging told Council members that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating, and the worrying increase in violence in urban areas puts a greater number of people at risk.
- Until violence is ended, he said, we will continue to see an increase in human suffering, and in the number of people displaced. Immediate action is required to prevent this crisis from worsening.
- Mr. Ging said that some 3.9 million people live in areas directly affected by violence. The fighting has significantly damaged infrastructure, affecting the power and water supply.
- He also noted that as conflict intensifies, casualties are on the rise. He cited reports from the UN’s Human Rights Office and the World Health Organization (WHO) that at least 1,367 people – both civilians and combatants – have been killed, and more than 4,000 people have been wounded by fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April.
SECURITY COUNCIL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE ATTACKS IN NORTHWEST IRAQ
- In a statement issued yesterday, Security Council members condemned the attacks by the Islamic State in Sinjar and Tal Afar in northwest Iraq. They expressed concern about the hundreds of thousands of people, many of them from vulnerable minority communities, displaced by the attacks and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
- Council members called upon all Iraqi communities to unite to respond, with the support of the international community, to the violent and senseless threat to Iraq’s unity, identity and future.
- Also on Iraq, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that, according to Government estimates, up to 200,000 people may have fled Sinjar, including some 45,000 people who have arrived in the Kurdistan region since 3rd August. There are also reports that some 3,000 Iraqis have fled into Syria and UNHCR is trying to help them gain permission to cross back into the Kurdistan region in Iraq.
EBOLA DEATHS TOP 900 – WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
- The World Health Organization (WHO) issued today an update on Ebola.
- Between 2 and 4 August 2014, a total of 108 new cases, as well as 45 deaths, were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. This brings the total number of cases to 1,711, and the total number of deaths to 932.
- As announced yesterday, the World Health Organization is convening today an Emergency Committee of international experts to review the outbreak. A summary of the meeting will be made public and a press briefing will be held on Friday.
- Among the main new developments in the four affected countries, let me highlight a few:
- In Guinea, exit screening is currently being tested, in partnership with the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
- In Liberia, security issues continue to be of concern, as community resistance remains high.
- In Nigeria, the Government is focused on following up the contacts from the first patient.
- In Sierra Leone, efforts are underway to map where treatment centres and laboratories are most needed and getting those set up.
MARKING ANNIVERSARY OF HIROSHIMA BOMBING, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES NUCLEAR WEAPON-FREE FUTURE
- Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and the Secretary-General sent a message to this year’s Peace Memorial Ceremony held today in the Japanese city.
- He said that today’s solemn commemoration connects memories of a tragic past with the vision of a future free of nuclear weapons.
- The Secretary-General said that one of the great ironies of modern science is that humans are searching for life on other planets while retaining and modernizing weapons of mass destruction that, if used, can destroy all life on planet Earth. He said that we must address this failing and counter the militarism that breeds the pursuit of such weaponry.
- He called for immediate and concrete progress so that the hibakusha – the survivors of the bombing – and the world can witness the final destruction of the last nuclear weapon as we end the historical nightmare known as the age of nuclear weapons – and welcome the dawning of a new era of hope, peace, and prosperity for all.