News in Brief 17 April 2017 (AM)

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In Mosul, Iraq, aging family members are pushed for hours through frontline fighting between the army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh), to reach safety. Photo: IRIN/Tom Westcott

Iraq: Mosul displaced approaching 500,000

Nearly half a million people have been displaced since the start of an operation six months ago to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the terrorist group ISIL.

UN humanitarian coordinator for the country Lise Grande issued a statement on Monday describing the volume of people fleeing the northern city as "staggering."

When the fighting began, she said the UN initially had anticipated a "worst case scenario" of up to one million people running from Mosul.

So far, more than 490,000 have left.

Meanwhile, the UN estimates that up to 500,000 people remain in ISIL-controlled areas in western Mosul, with the majority in the densely populated old city.

Humanitarians are working to expand emergency sites to house hundreds of thousands more people who may flee in the coming weeks.

UN officials condemn deadly attack on Syria evacuees

Senior UN officials, including the Organization's humanitarian affairs chief, have expressed horror following an attack this weekend on people evacuating from two towns in Syria.

The bus evacuations from Foah and Kefraya were being carried out on Saturday under a deal for rebel-held towns that have been under siege for years.

Around 5,000 evacuees had reached Rashidin, west of government-controlled Aleppo where they were due to be handed over, when a large bomb detonated, killing scores of people, including at least 60 children.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien strongly condemned what he called the "monstrous and cowardly attack," which he said "displayed a shameless disregard for human life."

Mr O'Brien reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international law which expressly prohibits any harm on civilians.

The head of UN children's agency UNICEF has also condemned the attack.

In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: "We must draw from this not only anger, but renewed determination to reach all the innocent children throughout Syria with help and comfort."

He also expressed hope that "those with the heart and the power to end this war will do so."

Silk Road youth forum promotes cultural preservation

Some 80 young people from countries along the Silk Road are taking part in a forum in China this week that promotes creativity and cultural preservation.

It has been organized by the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, together with two municipalities in the country.

The objectives include giving youth a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in protecting and preserving their heritage.

Humans have traded goods, skills and ideas along Silk Roads, linking the East and West, for centuries.

Besides China, countries along these land and sea networks include Afghanistan, Iran and India.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 3’07″

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