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World News in Brief: Rafah ‘slaughter’ fears, Ukraine energy system attacks, rights abuses against Syrian returnees

“Today, I’m sounding the alarm once again: Military operations in Rafah could lead to a slaughter in Gaza. They could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The scenario we have long dreaded is unraveling at alarming speed,” he said, as well over a million people are now crammed in the city. 

They are staring death in the face, with little to eat, hardly any access to medical care, nowhere to sleep and nowhere safe to go.

End the war

Mr. Griffiths recalled that for more than four months, humanitarians have been doing the near impossible to assist people in need in Gaza despite the risks they faced and their own traumas.

“But no amount of dedication and goodwill is enough to keep millions of people alive, fed and protected – while the bombs are falling and the aid is choked off. Add to this the widespread despair, the breakdown of law and order, and the defunding of UNRWA,” he said, referring to the UN agency that assists the Palestinian people.

As result, humanitarian workers have been shot at, held at gunpoint, attacked, and killed, he said. They lack the safety guarantees, aid supplies and the staff capacity to keep operations afloat.

“The international community has been warning against the dangerous consequences of any ground invasion in Rafah. The Government of Israel cannot continue to ignore these calls.  History will not be kind. This war must end,” his statement concluded.

Ukraine: Attacks continue on energy facilities

 Turning to Ukraine, where the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that attacks on energy facilitates continued on Tuesday.

 In the Dnipro region, in the east of the country, after two days of strikes on energy facilities, local authorities reported another attack overnight on a thermal plant.

 The strikes prompted the evacuation of a hospital and the closure of schools in the impacted areas, due to low temperatures, OCHA said in a humanitarian update.

 Damage to energy facilities were also reported in Donetsk, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson and Sumy regions.

 “On the frontline, our humanitarian partners continue to support communities whose access to critical services has been severely hampered by active hostilities,” OCHA said. 

 In the town of Siversk, Donetsk region, aid organizations supported the installation of a filtering station to provide clean water to people who had been without access to gas, water and electricity due to the destruction of the critical infrastructure. 

 Meanwhile, as the second anniversary of Russia’s full scale invasion approaches, concerns are growing over a sharp increase in fighting, with devastating impact on civilians.

 “We remain concerned about the escalatory trajectory of this war with intensifying attacks on civilians, and acts that could further diminish the prospects for a just and lasting solution,” Miroslav Jenča, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Europe at the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), told the Security Council on Monday. 

Syrian returnees face gross rights violations: UN report 

Many Syrians who fled the war in their homeland face violations and abuses upon their return at the hands of the Government, de facto authorities and other armed groups, a new report by the UN human rights office, OHCHR, has revealed.

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The documented violations and abuses include arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearance and abduction.

People have also had their money and belongings extorted, their property confiscated, and have been denied identity and other documents.  

“This report paints an alarming picture of the suffering of returnees, in particular women, amid the increasing number of deportations of Syrians from other countries,” said UN human rights chief Rights Volker Türk. 

A woman returnee, who was detained for a week with her two daughters by Government security forces as they tried to leave Syria for a second time, said her family had to pay a $300 bribe to speed up their release.

The report calls all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The Syrian Government and all other parties to the conflict are also urged to grant UN entities and other international and non-governmental organisations unhindered access to monitor the conditions of Syrians who return

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