30 April 2013
Palestine refugees in Syria are being killed, injured and displaced in greater numbers than ever before, as the armed conflict continues to overwhelm refugee camps across the country. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) now estimates that approximately 235,000 Palestine refugees have been displaced inside Syria and is particularly concerned about news that was confirmed today on the displacement of some 6,000 Palestinians from Ein El Tal on 26 April, a Palestine refugee camp some 12 kilometres from Aleppo in northern Syria.
Months of sporadic armed engagements intensified last week, culminating in armed opposition groups occupying Ein El Tal camp in the early morning hours of 26 April and immediately declaring it a “military zone”. Exchanges of fire ensued with forces loyal to the government who were present inside the camp. Mortars and small arms were reportedly used, damaging and destroying refugee homes and contributing to dozens of fatalities and injuries, including among Palestinian civilians. In the aftermath of the fighting, a number of young Palestine refugee men were reportedly taken away by the armed opposition groups who now remain in Ein El Tal camp, where a situation of high tension prevails.
Staff from UNRWA’s Office in Aleppo responded within a few hours to the emergency needs of the refugees displaced from Ein El Tal camp. Rapid arrangements were put into place to provide food and cash assistance to the displaced, many of whom are still seeking temporary accommodation in Aleppo city. UNRWA’s response efforts are continuing amidst reports that significant numbers of the displaced refugees may be trapped without adequate shelter in rural areas around Aleppo where intense armed conflict continues to rage.
Events in Ein El Tal mirror the tragic experience of other Palestine refugee camps – Dera’a Camp, Yarmouk in Damascus City and Husseiniyeh, Khan Eshieh, Sbeineh, and Seida Zaynab Camps in the wider Damascus area. Ein El Tal is the latest manifestation of a cycle of catastrophic violence in which the conduct of all parties has transformed Palestine refugee camps into theatres of conflict in which heavy weapons are used, resulting in severe suffering for Palestinian civilians.
While continuing to respond to humanitarian crises affecting Palestinians in Syria, UNRWA condemns the conduct of armed conflict in civilian areas, and the failure of all parties to safeguard the safety and lives of Syrian and Palestinian civilians. International humanitarian law obliges all parties to protect civilians and we demand all parties fulfil this obligation.
UNRWA urgently appeals to all sides to halt the human suffering caused by the conflict in Syria, and to resolve their differences through dialogue and political negotiations.
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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 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$ 67.2 million.
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