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News in Brief 15 April 2024

News in Brief 15 April 2024

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Gaza: Rights experts condemn AI role in destruction by Israeli military 

As UN chief António Guterres on Monday reiterated his appeal for “maximum restraint” in the Middle East following Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel, independent human rights experts said the Israeli military’s alleged use of artificial intelligence to select targets in Gaza had taken an “unprecedented toll” on civilians, housing and services.

“Six months into the current military offensive, more housing and civilian infrastructure has now been destroyed in Gaza as a percentage, compared to any conflict in memory,” said the experts, who included Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.

The rights experts - who are not UN staff - estimated that 60 to 70 per cent of all homes in Gaza, and up to 84 per cent of homes in northern Gaza, had been either fully destroyed or partly damaged. 

They highlighted apparent “enthusiasm expressed by prominent former US government officials for ‘Gaza beachfront’ properties” and maintained that there is little doubt that Israel’s intent goes far beyond the purposes of military defeat of Hamas”. 

Damage to the Strip is estimated at $18.5 billion - 97 per cent of the total economy of Gaza and West Bank. More than 70 per cent of this estimate is to replace housing, while another 19 per cent is the cost of civilian infrastructure, including water and sanitation, power and roads.

Sudan catastrophe must not be allowed to continue: UN rights chief Türk

A full year of conflict in Sudan has already caused immense suffering and death but the situation could easily worsen with the news that the warring parties are arming civilians, UN rights chief Volker Türk said on Monday.

A year to the day since heavy fighting erupted between Sudan’s rival militaries, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of a further escalation, including an imminent attack on El-Fasher in North Darfur.

“The Sudanese people have been subjected to untold suffering during the conflict which has been marked by indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas, ethnically-motivated attacks, and a high incidence of conflict-related sexual violence,” said Mr. Türk, who also expressed deep concern about the recruitment and use of children by warring parties.

The UN’s top rights official also underscored the potential for further bloodshed, as three armed groups announced that they were joining the Sudanese Armed Forces in their fight against the Rapid Support Forces.

Since fighting erupted on 15 April 2023, more than eight million people have been displaced, including at least two million to neighbouring countries. 

Nearly 18 million people in Sudan face acute food insecurity, 14 million of them are children, said High Commissioner Türk, who added that over 70 per cent of hospitals are no longer functional and powerless to deal with a rise in infectious diseases. 

“This catastrophic situation must not be allowed to continue,” Mr. Türk said.

Grower experts mull action to tackle spike in plant pests

A key UN taskforce that tackles plant pests and diseases gathered on Monday to brainstorm new measures to limit “irreversible” damage to the global food supply, as rising global temperatures threaten “unchecked” destruction of crops.

The Food and Agriculture Organization – or FAO – panel’s work has been complicated by changing weather patterns and warmer growing conditions globally that have changed the geographic distribution and intensity of plant bugs and blight.

Early detection, rapid response and coordinated control efforts worldwide are indispensable, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

The work of the FAO Commission on Phytosanitary Measures includes efforts to eradicate the banana fungus TR4; it has spiked because of climate change and caused yield losses affecting more than 400 million farmers. 

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • Gaza: Rights experts condemn AI role in destruction by Israeli military
  • Sudan crisis in international spotlight one year since war began
  • Grower taskforce mulls action to tackle spike in plant pests
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Daniel Johnson, UN News
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© UNOCHA/Themba Linden