UNRWA Syria crisis situation update (Issue 23)

19 December 2012

Note: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will disseminate information about the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria.


19 December 2012
The conflict in Syria continues to escalate throughout the country, with 5,271 internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently sheltering in UNRWA facilities across the country as of 18 December—doubling the 2,631 persons reported doing so on 6 December. In the last 24 hours, clashes and shelling have been reported around Hama, Homs, and Aleppo, but the camps themselves remain relatively calm and UNRWA facilities operational.
Air strikes, clashes and shelling continue today inside the Yarmouk refugee camp and district of Damascus, six days since the start of the escalation on Friday. Home to over 150,000 Palestine refugees, UNRWA is monitoring the situation in Yarmouk with increasing apprehension. Having repeatedly advocated to maintain the neutrality of the 525,000 Palestine refugees in Syria and not implicate them in the conflict, the events of this past week are cause for grave concern.
Large-scale electricity and water shortages have been reported in camps across Syria, an additional serious concern for the Agency as the cold winter weather sets in. In Aleppo in particular, electricity has been unavailable in most parts of the city for the last five days. There have also been reports of no running water for four days now. The UNRWA Area Office was operational, and received demands of assistance from refugees. Clashes continue around Ein el Tal and Neirab camps. Residents of Ein el Tal have no electricity or water, while those in Neirab have access to water, but limited electricity. The availability of mazout (fuel oil) is a great concern for refugees now, and prices on the black market are extremely high.
Unconfirmed reports state that over 3,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have crossed the border into Lebanon between Sunday and Tuesday. UNRWA’s Lebanon Field Office (LFO) recorded approximately 100 newly-arrived families crossing yesterday, and is in the process of distributing hygiene, bedding and kitchen kits to them. LFO has received additional non-food items from UNHCR. In addition, 530 family kits (bedding, hygiene and kitchenware) are being supplied by ICRC to the popular committees for distribution in Wavel camp and Mid-Beqaa.


Shelling continued in Yarmouk overnight followed by a lull this morning. Amidst unsubstantiated reports of 150 casualities, residents continued to leave in large numbers during this time, on foot and by vehicle, and there are reports that very few people are now left in Yarmouk.
Shelling resumed again around noon, reportedly more intensively than previously and including at least one airstrike. There are reports of armed opposition groups ransacking houses and vehicles left behind, and UNRWA confirmed that 9 vehicles have now been confirmed as lost, presumably taken by opposition elements.
Clashes and shelling continue in Hajar al Aswad, Tadhamon, Yalda and Qadam, although apparently at lesser intensity than previous days. Clashes and shelling also continue around Sbeineh Camp, but the camp itself remains relatively calm. Khan Dannoun and Jaramana Camps are calm and accessible, but intensive clashes and shelling continue around QabrEssit and Husseiniyeh Camps. Occasional shell impacts have been reported within both camps, causing at least some injuries. The two camps are largely inaccessible.
Facilities in Yarmouk, Douma and Qaboun were closed today, while facilities in Sbeineh, Sit Zeinab, Husseiniyeh and Khan Dannoun were only operated by staff living within those camps.


  •  4,180 IDPs in UNRWA facilities in the Damascus area, with more than 1,500 IDPs arriving in the last 24 hours
  • 1,500 IDPs reported to be accommodated by the local community in Khan Eshieh camp
  •  Approximately 2,000 refugees have reportedly headed to Homs
  • Vast majority of UNRWA staff have now left Yarmouk
  • 700 staff and their families fled to the Damascus Training Centre (DTC) in Mezzeh on Sunday and yesterday
  • 1,200 IDPs sheltering in a school in Khan Eshieh Camp
  • At least seven government schools around Yarmouk are also sheltering IDPs
  • UNRWA staff accommodating those who have already left Yarmouk

UNRWA response to the recent escalation:

  • 200 family food parcels provided to IDPs in UNRWA schools in the DTC and Mezzeh since fighting broke out this weekend
  • 1,719 blankets distributed to the DTC, Mezzeh and Khan Eshieh
  • 6,000 mattresses sent to the DTC, Mezzeh and Khan Eshieh
  •  Additional mattresses, blankets, family food parcels and water will be delivered today to DTC, Alliance, Jaramana, Mezzeh, Khan Eshieh and Ramadan Camp through other UN agencies and SARC

Facts and figures

  •  486,946 registered refugees
  • 9 camps
  • 118 schools
  • 63,700 pupils
  • 23 primary health centres
To read more detailed information about events throughout the country, sign up to receive weekly updates on our humanitarian response in Syria at www.unrwa.org/syria.
Click here to read the latest UNRWA statement on the humanitarian crisis in Yarmouk published on 17 December.
Click here to read about UNRWA’s emergency response in the last situation report published on 16 December.
Click here to read a profile of Yarmouk describing the scope of UNRWA’s work there before the outbreak of recent hostilities.
Click here to read about UNRWA’s regular work in Syria.

Background information:

In a statement issued on Sunday night UNRWA expressed “extreme worry and grave concern” about the unfolding situation there. UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi has appealed to the Syrian authorities, and all parties to the conflict, to safeguard the security of Palestine refugees wherever they reside in Syria, and the Agency emphasized the urgent nature of his appeal following Sunday‘s events.
As the Syria conflict and its impact on civilians continue to escalate, UNRWA continues to exert all efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. The Agency is monitoring the situation as it evolves, and its staff will continue to assess the situation and render any needed assistance.
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.
For more information, please contact:
Sami Mshasha

UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
[email protected] 
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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