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Over 30 killed in renewed South Sudan
clashes amid continued truce violation   

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Renewed clashes between government troops and opposition forces in the northern South Sudanese town of Koch have killed at least 32 people since the Dec. 24 cease-fire, a local government official said on Thursday.

Lam Tungwar, Information Minister for Northern Liech State, said that the deaths occurred during fresh fighting that broke out between government soldiers and rebels loyal to the country’s former Deputy President Riek Machar since the declaration of the truce on Sunday.

Lam said normalcy has returned to the town but government forces are still engaging the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) rebels in a nearby town.

“On the 24th of December, 13 people were killed on the side of the government. Most of them were civilians. 19 were also killed on the side of the rebels who came to attack us while 15 others were injured,” Lam said.

“We have to pursue them to make sure that they are far away from the civilians because they are causing a lot of havoc to the civilians,” he added.

The cease-fire agreement signed between the South Sudanese government and several rebel groups on Thursday last week was brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional bloc.

The truce asked warring parties to stop military operations and keep their forces in their bases while calling for the release of political detainees as well as unhindered humanitarian access.

Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO Deputy Military Spokesperson on Thursday accused the government of further violating the cease-fire by launching fresh attacks on their bases in Koch and the Western town of Mundri.

He accuses the government of trying to capture more territory from the opposition before the start of second round of the IGAD-led High Level Revitalization Forum early next year.

The warring factions had previously violated several cease-fires since the conflict erupted four years ago.

South Sudan has been embroiled in four years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.



UNICEF urges ending of violations against children in conflict areas

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday called on all parties to conflict to abide by their obligations under international law and immediately end violations and attacks against children.

“Children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds,” said Manuel Fontaine, the Director of Emergency Programmes at UNICEF, in a news release.

“As these attacks continue year after year, we cannot become numb. Such brutality cannot be the new normal.”

According to UNICEF, children have become frontline targets, used as human shields, killed, maimed and recruited to fight in conflicts around the world.

Sexual violence, forced marriage, abduction and enslavement have become “standard tactics,” in conflicts from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar, said the UN agency.

In addition to the physical trauma children have had to suffer, far too many children have been subjected to the psychosocial trauma in having to witnesses shocking and widespread violence.

Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and many children have died as a result of lack of health care, medicines or access to food and water, because these services and were damaged or destroyed in fighting.

In some contexts, children abducted by extremist groups experience abuse yet again upon release when they are detained by security forces, added UNICEF.

UNICEF also called on all states with influence over parties to conflict “to use that influence to protect children.”



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