HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR “IMMEDIATE, DURABLE, AND FULLY RESPECTED” CEASEFIRE IN GAZA
- The Security Council voted last night to adopt a resolution that called for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. In a resolution adopted by 14 votes to none, with the United States abstaining, the Council also called for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, and it condemned all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.
- Speaking after the vote, the Secretary-General said that he was heartened and relieved at the Council’s adoption of the resolution, telling Council members, “Your decision signals the will of the international community. It must be fully respected by all parties to this conflict.”
- He said that a ceasefire would open the way for the United Nations to resume urgently the delivery of humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies.
- The Secretary-General added that his visit to the region next week will focus on helping to ensure that the ceasefire is implemented and that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches those in need. The visit would also encourage the diplomatic efforts currently underway.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General is disappointed that a ceasefire has not yet been established, as the Council had called for, the Spokeswoman pointed out that the resolution was only passed last night. Discussions on implementing a ceasefire, she said, are not only continuing but are intensifying. Asked about the Secretary-General’s diplomatic contacts, Montas said that he continues to work through diplomatic channels as he tries to ensure that a ceasefire will be implemented.
- The Spokeswoman later said The Secretary-General is obviously concerned that the violence is continuing despite yesterday’s resolution. He hopes it will come to a stop very soon.
- The Security Council has the responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and its decisions should be respected.
- The Council has clearly said what should happen and the parties should comply. There needs to be an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. There should be an immediate halt of violence, including both the Israeli military operations and the firing of rockets by Palestinian militant groups.
- The Secretary-General is continuing his contacts with political leaders in the region and the international community, in hopes of ensuring that Resolution 1860 is implemented without delay. He urges all states, especially those in the region, to encourage progress in this regard.
- And, the Secretary-General spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by phone this afternoon and expressed his disappointment that the violence is continuing on the ground in disregard of yesterday's Security Council resolution.
BAN KI-MOON TO HOLD FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE OF 2009
- The Secretary-General will provide more details about his forthcoming trip to the Middle East when he holds his first press conference of the year next Tuesday.
- That will happen in room S-226 at 10:30 a.m. and, as usual, will take the place of that day’s noon briefing.
THREE UNITED NATIONS WORKERS KILLED THIS WEEK IN GAZA
- The Spokeswoman clarified some of the facts in yesterday’s shooting incident involving drivers contracted by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) near the Erez Checkpoint in Gaza. After the convoy was fired upon, UNRWA says, the driver of one of the vehicles had been killed; another sustained severe injuries to the stomach; and a third was shot in the arm.
- UNRWA suspended movement of staff with immediate effect. UNRWA will resume operations once security can be guaranteed.
- In a separate incident, UNRWA’s head mechanic of the Gaza Field Office had been killed in his home on Monday. The family had been evacuated on Wednesday, but the body could not be evacuated. UNRWA had some staff that tried to approach the house yesterday to evacuate the body, but they also had come under fire.
- At the same time, the Relief and Works Agency has made clear that it is not pulling out of Gaza, with core international staff and the network of 9,000 local staff remaining there. Emergency shelters are open and continue to host people. There are still distribution centres where people could – if they could manage to get there – receive food.
- Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) noted that, despite the restrictions owing to a lack of trucks, actual services are continuing. WFP has not suspended operations at all. WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran today arrived at the Rafah crossing at the border with Egypt, to get firsthand information and discuss the situation there.
GAZA: IN WAKE OF FIRING INCIDENTS, ISRAEL PLEDGES RESPECT FOR U.N. PROPERTIES AND OPERATIONS
- In a high-level meeting today at Israeli Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, the U.N. was informed that the incidents which led to a temporary suspension of U.N. staff movements are deeply regretted and do not reflect official government policy.
- The U.N. received credible assurances that the security of U.N. personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected, including undertakings of improved liaison and more effective internal coordination within the IDF.
- On this basis, U.N. staff movements suspended yesterday will resume as soon as possible. The U.N. will keep the safety and security of its staff under constant review.
- The U.N. urges the parties to respect United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860, in particular its call for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, and for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES VIOLATIONS IN GAZA CONFLICT
- High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a special session of the Human Rights Council, which met today to discuss “the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip”, that the violence must stop. She said that the ceasefire called for by the Security Council must be implemented immediately.
- In her address to the special session, Pillay stressed unequivocally that international human rights law must apply in all circumstances and at all times. She strongly urged the parties to the conflict “to fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded and to protect and respect health workers, hospitals, and medical units and ambulances.”
- The High Commissioner suggested that the Human Rights Council should consider authorizing a mission to assess violations committed by both sides in the conflict in order to establish the relevant facts and ensure accountability.
- “I remind this Council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked,” she said.
- The special session takes place following a request by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group and the African Group; Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
**The guests at noon were John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the U.N. Refugee and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (via videolink from Gaza), and John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, who briefed on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
10 January – 16 January 2009
In Geneva, the Human Rights Council is expected to take action on a draft resolution during its resumed Special Session on “the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip”.
At 10.30 a.m. in Room S-226, the Secretary-General holds his first press conference of the year. There will be no noon briefing by the Spokesperson today.
The Secretary-General is scheduled to begin a weeklong visit to the Middle East.
This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate on the protection of civilians.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
United Nations, S-378
New York, NY 10017