Statement of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Mr. Maxwell Gaylard

06 January 2009

Three members of the same Palestinian family were killed last night whilst taking shelter in an UNRWA school designated as a temporary refuge from the violence. Well before the current fighting, the UN had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including the UNRWA school which was struck. In addition yesterday, an entire family of five children and their parents were killed when the Israeli army shelled their home.

These deaths highlight the tragic reality of the situation in Gaza that for civilians, neither homes nor UN shelt

ers are safe. Nearly one and a half million civilians are dangerously exposed to the fighting around them. There are no safe places to flee. We call on all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians.

More than 500 people have been killed and more than 2400 injured in just ten days. As one of the most densely populated places in the world, it is clear that more civilians will be killed; more homes, buildings and civilian infrastructure will be destroyed, if the conflict continues.

These tragic incidents need to be investigated, and if international humanitarian law has been contravened, those responsible must held accountable.

I reiterate the Secretary General’s call for an immediate cessation to this violence. Human beings have the right to life, liberty, and security no matter who they are and where they live.

Background Information

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, deepening poverty and conflict. As a result, the UNRWA General Fund, which supports core essential services and most staffing costs, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals. 

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724