News in Brief 29 April 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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A family flees an active conflict neighbourhood in eastern Ghouta, Syria, using a cart to carry their belongings. Photo: UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

"Monstrous disregard for civilian lives" as Syria fighting grows

An upsurge of fighting in Syria shows a "monstrous disregard" for civilian life, the UN's human rights chief has said.

Following reports of direct attacks on hospitals and marketplaces, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged all parties in the conflict to step back from a return to all-out war.

The escalation in fighting follows a pause in peace talks in Geneva which High Commissioner Zeid described as the key to ending the fighting.

Here's his spokesperson Rupert Colville:

"It's really the only game in town; the cessation of hostilities and the Geneva talks are all that there is. And as we now that they've stopped at least for the time being it looks like the fighting is about to get back into full swing and the prospects of that are truly horrendous."

In recent days mounting civilian casualties have been seen in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, Idlib and Deir ez-Zour.

The UN human rights office has also expressed concern at reports of military build-ups that indicate preparations for "a lethal escalation" of the conflict.

"Outrage" at alarming frequency of attacks on health facilities in Syria

And "outrage" at the "alarming frequency" of attacks on health personnel and facilities in Syria has been expressed by two heads of UN agencies.

The World Health Organisation's Margaret Chan and Anthony Lake of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said the bombings are a reminder of the "enormous difficulties and dangers that Syrian health workers face every day."

The two added that those workers deserve more than just "admiration. They deserve greater protection."

UNICEF and WHO urged all parties to the conflict in Syria to end all attacks on health facilities, personnel and ambulances and to allow the provision of health services to the "many innocent civilians in desperate need."

Olympic flame lights up UN in Geneva

And finally, the Olympic flame made a detour to the UN in Geneva on Friday, three months before it reaches Rio ahead of the 2016 Games.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was there to welcome the person carrying it, 13-year-old Brazilian Bruna Gabrielle Pitta Portugal.

At a ceremony to mark the International Day of Sport for Development, the UN chief welcomed a decision by the Games organisers to include a refugee team in the event – a first.

He also appealed to the international community to do more to address global insecurity.

"I call on the world to find lasting solutions. Refugees want homes, not tents. They want a flag that waves for their rights. And they deserve a world that gives them more than assistance; they deserve a world that is at peace. Let us all be on the team of refugees until there is no need for a refugee team at all."

Ban Ki-moon said that he hoped next month's World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul would provide an opportunity for global leaders to find solutions to ongoing migrant and refugee crises that have left more than 100 million people in daily need of humanitarian aid.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’00″


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