Geneva Press Briefing - 27 February 2024
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Press Conferences

Geneva Press Briefing - 27 February 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

27 February 2024

Situation in Gaza

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that on 25 February, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the United Nations had evacuated 24 patients from Al Amal hospital in Khan Younis, including one pregnant woman and one mother with a newborn. This hospital had been at the epicentre of military operations in Khan Younis for over a month, which had left it incapacitated. Despite prior coordination for all staff members and vehicles with the Israeli side, the Israeli forces had blocked the WHO-led convoy for many hours the moment it had left the hospital. The Israeli military had forced patients and staff out of ambulances and stripped all paramedics of their clothes. Three PRCS paramedics had been subsequently detained, although their personal details had been shared with the Israeli forces in advance, while the rest of the convoy had stayed in place for over seven hours. One paramedic had been released, and the UN appealed for the immediate release of the other two, and all other detained health workers.

Mr. Laerke stressed that this was not an isolated incident. Aid convoys had come under fire and were systematically denied access to people in need. Humanitarian workers had been harassed, intimidated or detained by Israeli forces, and humanitarian infrastructure had been hit.

The UN and partners had consistently communicated the requirements for meaningful facilitation of relief efforts across Gaza to the Israeli authorities. The bare minimum was this: acknowledging notification of a humanitarian mission in advance came with the responsibility of facilitating safe, smooth and rapid passage on the ground. Mr. Laerke said that the UN would continue its engagement with the Israeli forces for those requirements to be met, so that the critically needed humanitarian response be enabled.

Full statement by the Humanitarian Country Team in Palestine is available here.

Replying to questions from the journalists, Mr. Laerke said that the humanitarian community had had a coordinated response in Gaza ever since 21 October, since the Rafah crossing’s limited opening. The organizations were present in Gaza and across the region, and the UN had a substantial footprint. He renewed the call for a humanitarian ceasefire and warned about a high loss of civilian lives if there were to be a full attack on Gaza. The Secretary-General, in his remarks at the Human Rights Council the previous day, had appealed for a humanitarian ceasefire and immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, reminded Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS). Mr. Laerke explained that 32 non-critical patients had been left behind at the Al Amal hospital. Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), specified that there were 215 people in the hospital, including the 32 patients left behind and 45 medical workers, without functional ambulances. He reiterated that just before the 25 February incident, two family members of Médecins Sans Frontières had been killed in an unprompted attack by Israeli forces against a deconflicted compound where their staff and family members had been sleeping. 

Mr. Laerke, answering other questions, said that northern Gaza was extremely difficult to reach, the main reason being that convoys that had been planned in recent months had almost all been denied access. The only opening into Gaza was in the south, he reminded, so all humanitarian convoys would need to cross the entire chaotic, violent war zone in order to reach the north. On the top of the priorities which needed to happen was a humanitarian ceasefire, which would allow unimpeded and safe delivery of much-needed aid. Mr. Lindmeier reiterated that urgent access was needed to prevent avoidable deaths from disease and malnutrition. Only 12 of the 36 hospitals in Gaza were now partially functioning, he added. About allegations of looting, Mr. Laerke said that what often happened was that crowds of desperate people in Gaza would stop humanitarian convoys and take the aid. The UN did not use armed guards; the primary security of all convoys was acceptance and prior knowledge that they were happening. Regarding the 25 February convoy, Mr. Laerke emphasized that all the details had been shared with the Israeli military in advance, as per established practice; the military had acknowledged the receipt of the information.  

Human Rights Council

Pascal Sim, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), informed that the Human Rights Council was today continuing its high-level segment and would hear from more than 50 dignitaries; this segment should conclude the following morning. The Council would then hold a discussion on the human rights situation in Eritrea, and, time permitting, the High Commissioner for Human Rights would present his Office’s report on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Nicaragua and Afghanistan would be on the agenda of the Council on 29 February.  

Mr. Sim also informed that on 29 February at 1:30 pm, there would be a press conference to   

launch the latest report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua. Speakers would be

Jan-Michael Simon, Chair of the Group of Experts, and Ángela Maria Buitrago, Member of the Group of Experts. On 1 March at 1:30 pm, there would be a launch of a new report by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. Speakers would be Yasmin Sooka, Chairperson of the Commission, and Barney Afako and Carlos Castresana Fernández, Members of the Commission.

Announcements

David Hirsch, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), announced that the ITU now had over 1,000 industry, academia, and organizational members, in addition to its 193 Member States. This milestone marked the largest, most diverse membership in the agency's history. He also announced over USD 9 billion in investment commitments from mobile operator groups to extend global connectivity. The announcement, initially made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, built on the mobile industry's strong support to ITU's efforts to connect the world. Further information is available here.

Elisabeth Schoeffmann, for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), introduced herself as the new senior communications officer at UNIDIR. Her contact details would be shared with the media shortly. She informed that on 5 March, UNIDIR would mark the International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that today at 5 pm there would be a virtual press briefing at the global high-level technical meeting on noncommunicable diseases in humanitarian settings, which was taking place in Copenhagen. Speakers would include the Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme and the WHO Regional Directors for Europe and Eastern Mediterranean.

Ahead of the World Obesity Day (4 March), an embargoed press briefing on obesity and other forms of malnutrition would take place on 29 February at 2 pm. Data from new research by the WHO and the Imperial College of London would be released on 4 March.

Alessandra Vellucci, speaking on behalf of the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), informed that the UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen would brief the Security Council today at 10 am New York time/4 pm Geneva time. The briefing would be open and the Special Envoy’s remarks would be shared following the briefing.

Ms. Vellucci, for the for the United Nations Information Service, informed that the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would close on 1 March at 5:30 pm its 75th session and issue its concluding observations on Romania, Mauritania, Ireland, Iraq, Indonesia, and Sweden.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances would conclude today at 11 am its dialogue with Honduras under article 29(4) of the Convention. The Committee would then close on 1 March at 5 pm its 26th session and issue its concluding observations on Cambodia, Burkina Faso, and Honduras.

The Conference on Disarmament was continuing this morning its high-level segment until 28 February.

 

 


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