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UN 'making every effort' to release 43 peacekeepers

The UN is "making every effort to secure the release" of 43 peacekeepers detained by an armed group near Al Quneitra in the Golan Heights.

A further 81 peacekeepers are "currently being restricted to their positions" near Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah, the UN said.

An armoured vehicle carrying UNDOF peacekeepers near the Quneitra border crossing Credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The nationalities of the peacekeepers, who were serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDOF), is not clear. As of 31st July, there were peacekeepers from Ireland, the Netherlands, Fiji, Nepal, India and the Philippines serving in the force.

Smoke rises from the Quneitra border crossing in Golan Heights after it came under attack on Wednesday Credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Syrian jets shelled rebel positions near the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and fighting in the area is ongoing.

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UN chief: Violation of ceasefire would be 'irresponsible'

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said that any violation of the ceasefire agreed today would be "utterly irresponsible".

He said the blockade of Gaza must end, and that the territory must be brought back under the control of one legitimate Palestinian government adhering to Palestine Liberation Organisation commitments.

"Israel's legitimate security concerns must be addressed," he added.

Fears for crew as UN helicopter crashes in South Sudan

The UN Mission in South Sudan has said that one of its helicopters has crashed close to the small town of Bentiu in Unity State.

UNMISS said it was "deeply concerned about fate of crew".

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Insurgents in Iraq 'have seized nuclear materials'

Insurgents in northern Iraq have seized nuclear materials from Mosul University, according to a letter from an Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations.

Islamist insurgents have seized nuclear materials in northern Iraq. Credit: Reuters

The letter appealed for UN help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad" after around 88 pounds of uranium compounds were apparently seized.

In a letter obtained by Reuters, Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 8: "Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state."

He added that the nuclear materials could "be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction" and warned they could also be smuggled out of Iraq.

The materials were not believed to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to use in manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction, a US government source told the news agency.

Russia calls on UN to support Ukraine ceasefire

A member of the "Donbass" self-defence battalion takes part in a training at a base of the National Guard of Ukraine. Credit: Reuters\Valentyn Ogirenk

Russia has called an emergency meeting of the United Nations' most powerful body, seeking an immediate halt to the deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine - after months of blocking any Security Council action.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow now wanted Security Council action to end weeks of violence in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents, a move immediately denounced by the United States as "hypocritical".

Child abuse activist 'positive' about Vatican commission

A child abuse activist and survivor is "positive" the Catholic Church's body investigating allegations of clerical sexual abuse will be more than just "a talking shop".

Marie Collins, who sits on the investigative board, was speaking ahead of the Holy See's testimony in front of the UN's torture committee into the church's handling of the sexual abuse crisis.

We are coming from very different perspectives but we all have one aim in mind, the protection of children and . . . I am happy at the moment that the meeting is addressing the issues I hoped it would address.

– Marie Collins

Catholic church to face UN grilling over child sex abuse

The Catholic church will find itself back "in the dock" as it is due to testify before the Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

Almost 400 priests were defrocked by Pope Benedict XVI in two years over child abuse claims. Credit: PA

Last February the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a damning report of the Catholic Church’s handling of its clerical sex abuse crisis, accusing it of being more concerned with protecting its reputation, than it was with looking after children.

More sex abuse victim groups have come forward in the US and submitted fresh claims, it has emerged.

The Catholic Church has criticised the UN's decision to include child abuse allegations at a hearing on torture.

Vatican spokesman Fr Frederico Lombardi rejected the attempt “to bring the issue of the sexual abuse of minors into the discussion on torture” rather than into child protection.

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