This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
‘Hell on earth’ is the lives of children in Gaza: UN chief
“If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday, in an impassioned appeal for an end to ongoing violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.
In his address to the UN General Assembly, Mr. Guterres repeated his appeal for “a revitalized peace process”, describing it as “the only route to a just and lasting solution”.
The UN chief’s comments came amid increasing international calls for a ceasefire, after more than 10 days of airstrikes by Israeli Defence Forces on Gazan targets and rocket fire into Israel by armed groups including Hamas, based in the enclave.
Mr. Guterres noted that he and other senior United Nations officials were pushing for an end to hostilities by all parties to the conflict, through “extensive” diplomatic efforts within the region, including with Egypt, Jordan and Qatar, and “key partners” in the international community.
“I call on all members of the international community to do everything in their power to enable the parties to conflict, to step back from the brink”, he said.
Latest UN data indicates that the clashes – which are the most serious since 2014 – have claimed the lives of 219 Palestinians, including 64 children and 36 women, and injured thousands more.
There have also been at least 12 fatalities in Israel, including two children, and hundreds of injuries, from rockets fired by Hamas and other militant groups, which Mr Guterres also condemned.
WHO appeals for regular access to Gaza
Staying with the conflict in the Middle East, the UN health agency has added its weight to calls for regular humanitarian access to Gaza, where two dozen medical facilities have now come under attack, along with healthcare personnel.
In a World Health Organization press conference on Thursday, senior WHO officials highlighted the “almost total destruction” of the central COVID-19 testing lab in Gaza City, along with “severe restrictions” on deliveries of medical supplies.
The health agency’s key requests are for an end to the violence, ensuring the protection of civilians and healthcare facilities, and supporting emergency medical treatment.
Dr Richard Brennan, WHO Regional Emergency Director, highlighted the frustration that health professionals have expressed at the lack of aid access through crossing points into Gaza:
CLIP “We need a ceasefire, we need humanitarian pauses, we need for humanitarian access, we need all the crossings open… to let the aid in and the sick and injured out.”
Dr Brennan also expressed concerns that COVID-19 infections may spike in coming weeks, as they did last year, following celebrations marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and vaccine shortages and mistrust over immunisation.
Myanmar: rights expert welcomes new sanctions ‘blow’ against junta
To Myanmar finally, where a senior UN independent rights expert has welcomed new sanctions against the military junta by Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, before calling on other countries to do the same.
“It is imperative that the international community ramp up the size and scope of sanctions as the junta ramps up its repression of the people of Myanmar”, said UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews.
Mr. Andrews explained that the military, which overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on 1 February, relies on revenues from the oil and gas sector to supply the forces that keep the junta in power.
He said that the United States in particular had taken significant action by sanctioning top military officials by name, and that its measures potentially “opened the door to targeting those who continue to do business” with the generals.
“This is a warning to all those who are willing to conduct business as usual with the junta…that they themselves could face sanctions”, said the rights expert, who reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Those potentially facing criminal or civil penalties included international businesses, banks, arms traffickers, or government entities providing financial, technological or other support, Mr Andrews explained.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.