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

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at more than US$ 106  million.

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

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