Syria statement, 6 November

07 November 2012

6 November 2012
Damascus, Syria

In the early evening of 5 November 2012, Dr. Rehab Awadallah, an UNRWA teacher in Syria aged 45 years, was killed while she was walking on Al Jouni Street in the southeastern part of Yarmouk residential area in Damascus. This is the fifth conflict-related death of an UNRWA staff member in Syria this year and the third in the Yarmouk area. The staff member’s niece, a Palestine refugee, also died alongside her.

UNRWA deplores these tragic deaths, reportedly caused by an exploding shell, and is of the view that the killings could have been avoided by those responsible. There is no clarity regarding whose action took the lives of the teacher and her niece.

Prior to the death of Dr. Rehab, UNRWA had lost teachers Abdul Aziz Mahmoud Hamouiyeh and Husam Humeidan, school attendant Jihad Husein Suleiman, and maintenance technician Maher Mohammed al-Khatib.

Yarmouk, home to approximately one million Syrians and well over 150,000 Palestine refugees, is continuing to suffer the effects of heightened levels of armed conflict in its neighbouring areas, with the fighting encroaching with greater frequency into Yarmouk itself. From mid-afternoon onward on 5 November, intense clashes took place in Yarmouk and its eastern and south-eastern periphery, with shells impacting al-Quds, Palestine, al-Maghareba, al-Mansoura, Safad and Talateen Streets.

In addition to the staff member and her niece, initial reports indicate that 15 Palestinians lost their lives in the violence on 5 November, including a retired UNRWA staff member. More than 30 refugees were said to be injured and an indeterminate number were compelled to seek safety elsewhere. Women and children were among the casualties.

UNRWA has informed the Syrian authorities of this most recent conflict-related death of one of its members of staff. The Agency has emphasised its grave concern regarding the vulnerability of Palestine refugees to the effects of the armed conflict in Syria, and the destructive impact of the conflict on all civilians.

To ensure the protection of civilians, UNRWA reiterates once more that all sides must refrain from conducting the conflict in civilian areas and must comply with their obligations under international law to protect from the effect of armed conflict on Palestine refugees and other civilians across Syria.

UNRWA appeals to all parties to the conflict to strictly abide by their obligations under international law regarding the conduct of hostilities and limit the human suffering caused by the conflict in Syria accordingly. UNRWA also appeals to all sides to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiations.

- Ends -

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, microfinance and emergency assistance.

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, supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the budget deficit stands at USD 37 million.

For more information, please contact:

Chris Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
c.gunness@unrwa.org

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
s.mshasha@unrwa.org

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 US$ 56 million.

For more information, please contact:

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