World News in Brief: Arson at UNRWA’s East Jerusalem office, UN probe on staff member’s death in Gaza, food insecurity in South Sudan


This time it was an “arson attempt by Israeli children and young people on UNRWA”, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a social media post on Tuesday.

“This has got to stop,” he said.

Last Thursday evening, Mr. Lazzarini said Israeli residents had set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA headquarters when staff from several UN agencies were in the compound.

“While there were no casualties among our staff, the fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas,” he said at the time, noting that UNRWA headquarters has on its grounds a petrol and diesel station for the agency’s fleet of cars.

The UNRWA chief said that during last week’s incident a crowd “accompanied by armed men were witnessed outside the compound chanting “burn down the United Nations”, and that the office director and other staff had helped to extinguish the fire, as Israeli authorities took “a while before they turned up”.

‘New dangerous standard’

On Monday, displaced families returned to Khan Younis to seek shelter and safety in UNRWA schools, but found torched classrooms, blown out walls and rubble, according to the UN agency.

Meanwhile, the UNRWA chief noted that over the past two months, Israeli extremists have been staging protests outside the UNRWA compound in East Jerusalem, called into action by an elected member of the Jerusalem municipality. Last week, the protest became violent when demonstrators threw stones at UN staff and at the buildings of the compound.

He said UN staff have regularly been subjected to harassment and intimidation, the compound has been seriously vandalised and damaged and, on several occasions, “Israeli extremists threatened staff with guns”.

“It is the responsibility of the State of Israel as an occupying power to ensure that United Nations personnel and facilities are protected at all times,” he said via social media following last week’s arson attempt.

“The perpetrators of these attacks must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable. Anything less will set a new dangerous standard.”

Gaza: UN investigates killing of Indian staff member

The UN has launched an investigation into the recent killing of an Indian staff member in Rafah, in southern Gaza, amid ongoing Israeli military strikes during the seven-month-long conflict, the Organization’s deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday.

A UN vehicle was driving to the European Hospital in Rafah on Monday when deadly shots were fired, killing one UN international staff member and injuring another. Mr. Haq said “there’s regular work that’s going on in terms of bringing people to different sites, and this was part of that”.

“We are in discussion with Israel to determine exactly how this incident happened and the nature of what happened,” Mr. Haq said. “I don’t think at this stage we are in doubt about where the shots came from as much as what the circumstances were. We believe it came from a tank in the area.”

UN’s ‘first international casualty’ in Gaza

“What we know so far indicates that a weapon appears to have impacted the back of a white UN vehicle, carrying two UN staff members, killing one and injuring another,” he explained.

The deceased staff member has been identified as Waibhav Anil Kale, a former military officer from India, and the injured staff member was a Jordanian woman, who is receiving medical attention, Mr. Haq said, expressing the UN Secretary-General’s condolences.

Mr. Kale “is the first international casualty” in Gaza, the deputy spokesperson said, adding that there are currently 71 international UN staff members in the besieged enclave.

“It’s very early in the investigation, and details of the incident are still being verified with the Israeli Defense Forces,” he added.

A woman is being screened for malnutrition in South Sudan. (file)

South Sudan: 7 million may face high levels of food insecurity

More than seven million people in South Sudan risk experiencing high levels of food insecurity in July, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said, based on recent Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports.

Nearly 79,000 people, mostly in areas affected by conflict, economic crisis and climate-related shocks, can face catastrophic levels of hunger, according to the reports.

UN triples daily patrols in Tambura

Mr. Haq said UN humanitarian partners are supporting civilians displaced by intercommunal fighting in Tambura county, in western Equatoria. About 26,000 people have fled the county, leaving several residential areas in Tambura deserted.

“Our peacekeeping colleagues are closely monitoring the situation in Tambura,” Mr. Haq said. “To deter further violence, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had immediately deployed additional peacekeepers to reinforce the site.”

The UN Mission reported that they have tripled the number of daily patrols, he added.

Returnees and refugees

The number of returnees and refugees from the conflict in Sudan is putting a strain on already limited services, he continued. More than 670,000 new people were registered in South Sudan since the beginning of the war in Sudan in April 2023, with 80 per cent of them being returnees.

He also said the humanitarian appeal lacks funding, with only 11 per cent of the required $1.8 billion being received, posing a challenge to response efforts.

A mother's support group in Timor-Leste is promoting the importance of good nutrition for all children.

© UNICEF/Dominggus Monemnasi

A mother’s support group in Timor-Leste is promoting the importance of good nutrition for all children.

General Assembly President urges further progress on global goals

The President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, said on Tuesday that tangible progress is being made towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN Development System (UNDS) “continues to provide evidence-based and integrated policy advice to help countries implement the 2030 Agenda” as part of support for each country, Mr. Francis told the annual Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting on operational activities for development.

A total of 78 per cent of governments have recognised the UN as a partner that supports their national priorities, he said, and 98 per cent of host country governments have said that UN country teams “have effectively strengthened capacity to help build resilience to crises, disasters and extreme climate events”.

Keeping the goals on track

However, the General Assembly President said that at last year’s SDG Summit in September, there was a call to address the slow progress of achieving the global goals and only 15 per cent of those targets are on track.

“We must build on this momentum as we approach the Summit of the Future in September – a Summit which offers an opportunity to meaningfully scale up commitments towards achieving the 2030 Agenda,” he said, calling on Member States to recommit to working with a renewed sense of purpose and collaboration to deliver a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous world for all.

In a video message addressing the event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he remains deeply concerned about UN development funding.

“Securing sustainable and predictable funding” is his main priority for the system this year, he said.

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