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4 December 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, December 4, 2002
UN AGENCY PROTESTS TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS IN GAZA IMPOSED BY ISRAEL
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today lodged a formal protest with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a new travel restriction imposed on international staff in the Gaza Strip.
The Agency has been informed that, as of December 4, vehicles entering Israel from Gaza must carry two or more staff members travelling together. Single occupancy vehicles, with the exception of a small number of high-ranking diplomats, are banned from crossing into Israel until further notice.
UNRWA, which has a team of only three international staff drivers for the whole of the West Bank and Gaza, will find its operations severely curtailed by this order.
Even its diplomatic pouch will be prevented from leaving Gaza without two drivers, while simple staff meetings and other basic communications between its operations in the West Bank and Gaza will be greatly impeded.
Asked about the Israeli decision, the Spokesman said these measures taken apparently for security reasons conflict directly with the humanitarian work that UNRWA is trying to do and that is why the protest had been filed. The Spokesman added that these measures apply not only to UNRWA but to all UN staff operating in the area.
REPORT CITES CHALLENGES FOR PROTECTING CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT
The Secretary-General’s third
to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which was issued today, focuses on challenges that occur during the transitional phase from conflict to peace, and stresses the importance of protecting civilians throughout that process.
The report examines three emerging challenges for the protection of civilians: the sexual exploitation of civilians in conflict, including by UN and other humanitarian personnel; the commercial exploitation of conflicts; and terrorism.
The report notes that the United Nations is working to ensure that the design of peacekeeping and relief operations incorporates protection measures for groups vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
On terrorism, it says that terrorism must be condemned without reservation, but warns that the targeting of civilians and the disproportionate use of force beyond legitimate military objectives are violations of international humanitarian law and must be strongly condemned. The United Nations will need to formulate clear guidelines for its future work on protecting civilians in armed conflict where terrorist organizations are active.
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