The Security Council on Friday voiced its outrage at the recent attacks by armed groups in South Sudan that have purposefully targeted civilians as well as the United Nations peacekeeping mission sites and personnel.
The 15-member body highlighted in particular the 17 April attack against the compound of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, that resulted in scores of dead and injured, including those seeking the UN's shelter and protection, as well as the 14 April attacks in Bentiu and Unity state.
"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms these acts and underscored that attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime," said a statement issued to the press.
In yesterday's attack in Bor, armed civilians forced their way into the UNMISS protection site, where some 5,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were sheltering, and opened fire. Dozens of civilians were wounded and two UN peacekeepers sustained injuries repelling the armed mob.
Four months into the conflict between pro- and anti-Government forces, UNMISS is hosting some 67,000 civilians at its bases around the country.
Although the main parties to the conflict have signed a cessation of hostilities agreement, violence has escalated in recent weeks, particularly in Unity state.
On Monday, amid fighting in the state capital, Bentiu, anti-Government forces overran the town and the nearby neighbourhood of Rubkona. As a result, the number of IDPs in the UNMISS compound there has risen to 12,000.
In today's statement, Council members called on the Government of South Sudan to immediately take steps to ensure the safety of all civilians and UNMISS civilian protection sites, to swiftly investigate these incidents, and to bring the perpetrators of these "egregious" acts to justice.
"The members of the Security Council underscored their full support for UNMISS peacekeepers and commended the actions of the UNMISS contingents in Bor as they sought to fulfil their mandate to protect civilians. They also called on all parties to refrain from actions or statements that could further escalate the situation."