HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
ALARM AT ONGOING ISRAELI MILITARY OPERATION IN GAZA STRIP
- Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Middle East Envoy, is very alarmed by the death and destruction wrought by the ongoing Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza Strip. Reports say that among the mounting casualty count are many civilians and some children under 16.
- In a statement issued today, Roed-Larsen called on Israel, as the occupying power, to act under the framework of international law, most critically in the protection of the civilian population.
- The envoy reminds the Government of Israel that it has the responsibility to give free access to humanitarian workers – and that if the fighting escalates, which will further endanger civilians, Israel must also allow for search and rescue operations.
- On the ground, UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) says that many Palestinian families are leaving the Rafah camp and are heading north to Khan Yunis, fleeing the fighting and fearing further demolition of homes by Israeli forces.
- As many as 500 people have already taken refuge in UNRWA schools in Rafah. UNRWA has pre-positioned emergency supplies such as blankets, mattresses and food at two schools in Rafah, to be used as reception centers for people fleeing and/or becoming homeless.
SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS MIDDLE EAST
- The Security Council has scheduled consultations at 4 p.m. to consider a request for an immediate meeting to consider what the Chairman of the Arab Group describes as “the grave and ongoing Israeli violations and breaches of international law, in particular the widespread demolition of Palestinian homes in the Rafah area, and to take the necessary measures in this regard.”
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