21 June 2013
At around 10:00pm on 19 June 2013, at least three mortar shells struck Khan Eshieh Palestine refugee camp just outside Damascus. It was not clear which party to the conflict fired the shells. One shell hit an UNRWA school accommodating 260 displaced Palestine refugees. At least five Palestine refugees, including two children and two women, were killed inside the school and eleven sustained serious injuries including an UNRWA staff member. One more refugee was killed elsewhere in the camp in a separate incident. In the strongest terms, UNRWA condemns these latest examples of disregard for civilian lives in the Syria conflict.
The injured received no medical attention until the morning of the next day, as the continuing armed conflict made it impossible for them to be evacuated or to receive treatment in the camp.
As of the afternoon of 20 June, conflict continued in Khan Eshieh camp, precluding safe access. Nevertheless, UNRWA’s Syria Field Office mobilized to support survivors with humanitarian assistance. The violence, deaths and injuries prompted further displacement of Palestinians from the camp.
UNRWA deplores the fact that Palestine refugee camps in Syria are now directly affected by the conflict. The deaths in Khan Eshieh occur at a time of escalating armed conflict in various parts of Syria, including in the Damascus periphery where the majority of Palestine refugee camps are located. Other areas of Palestinian residence, most notably Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Husseiniyah and Seyda Zeinab, have also seen an increase in hostilities recently, with the toll of Palestinian deaths and injuries rising while survivors are left traumatized, displaced and impoverished.
With renewed urgency, UNRWA calls on all parties to the Syria conflict to desist from conducting armed conflict in Palestine refugee camps and other civilian areas, and to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular their obligation to protect civilians, including Palestine refugees, from the effects of the conflict.
The pursuit of military solutions to the Syria conflict will only continue to multiply tragic civilian deaths and casualties such as occurred in Khan Eshieh, and will further aggravate the already severe human suffering being endured by Syrians and Palestinians alike. UNRWA fervently appeals to all sides and the international community to resolve the Syria conflict through a peaceful process of mediation and dialogue.
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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 five 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$ 65 million.
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UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
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