World News in Brief: New relief window in Gaza, sexual violence in Sudan, new action against chemical weapons

The latest update from UN aid coordination office OCHA indicated that two hospitals in Gaza City, Al Ahli and As Sahaba, had received a total of 10,500 litres of fuel, which is enough to operate their generators for about seven days.

But humanitarians have warned that despite the pause in fighting, much more aid is needed, urgently. 

They also warned that has been almost no improvement in access to clean water for residents in northern Gaza, after most of the main water production facilities shut down through lack of fuel, or damage from Israeli airstrikes launched after Hamas’s 7 October terror attacks that killed 1,200 and took another 240 hostage.  

Enhanced aid distribution, including fuel to hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, and shelters for internally displaced people, also continued in areas south of Wadi Gaza, where the vast majority of internally displaced are staying, said the UN Spokesperson, briefing journalists in New York. 

“Cooking gas, which has been entering daily from Egypt since the start of the pause, has been available in the market at one distribution centre in Khan Younis, but in quantities well below the actual demand for the cooking gas”, said Stéphane Dujarric. 

Sudan: UN rights experts ‘appalled’ at rise in sexual violence

Independent UN Human Rights Council-appointed experts expressed heightened alarm on Thursday over the escalation in gender-based violence in Sudan, primarily at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces militia.

According to UN sources, more than six million people have been forcibly displaced inside and outside the country since fighting began between the RSF and the national army, in mid-April.

“We are appalled by reports of widespread use of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, as a tool of war to subjugate, terrorise, break and punish women and girls, and as a means of punishing specific communities targeted by the RSF and allied militias,” the experts said.

The militia partnered with national forces up to the impasse in April, and grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militia that operated in Darfur in the 2000s.

Slavery, trafficking, rape

They stressed sexual violence has also been used against non-Sudanese migrants, refugees and stateless persons, during the brutal fighting for territory and control.

In August, the independent experts raised concerns at reports of multiple serious violations perpetrated by the RSF in particular. 

This included reports of sexual exploitation, slavery, trafficking, rape, and acts tantamount to enforced disappearances, which in some cases may have been racially, ethnically and politically motivated, including for expressing opposition to the presence of armed groups. 

Since then, reports of forced prostitution and forced marriage of women and girls have also emerged.

“These serious acts are reportedly no longer concentrated in Khartoum or Darfur, but have spread to other parts of the country, such as Kordofan,” the UN experts said. 

They called on the international fact-finding mission for Sudan, established by the Human Rights Council last month, to investigate these human rights violations and crimes with a view to ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable.

End ‘repugnant’ chemical weapons use once and for all, says UN chief

Thursday marks the day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare – it’s also a day when UN Secretary-General António Guterres insisted that we should resolve to end the use of these repugnant weapons, once and  for all.

In a social media post on X, the UN chief said that “in the name and memory of all who have suffered, let’s consign chemical weapons to history”.

“Ending this scourge means living up to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s call to prevent the use of any chemical weapons, and ending impunity for those who use them, especially against civilians”, he wrote, in his official message marking the international day.

He noted that it is now ten years since the deadly chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta district of Damascus that resulted in numerous casualties, many of them children.

International efforts to eradicate the illegal munitions are led by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Twenty-Eighth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on Thursday adopted a decision on Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use and the Threat of Future Use, brought forward by 48 countries.

The Conference decided that the continued possession and use of chemical weapons by Syria and its failures to submit an accurate and complete declaration and to destroy all its undeclared chemical weapons and production facilities, have caused serious damage to the object and purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In adopting the decision, States Parties condemned “in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by anyone, under any circumstances, emphasising that any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, and under any circumstances is unacceptable and contravenes international norms and standards”. 

The decision seeks to implement for the first time Paragraph 3 of Article XII of the Convention, which refers to measures States Parties can take in order to ensure compliance.

The OPCW meets in the Hague to discuss progress in chemical weapons disarmament which emerged as an issue more than a century ago, during the First World War, when chemical weapons such as mustard gas were used on a massive scale, resulting in more than 100,000 fatalities and a million casualties.

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