UNRWA gravely concerned by death of young refugee in Israeli military operation

23 August 2016

UNRWA is gravely concerned about the death of a young Palestine refugee and the high number of civilian injuries from live ammunition which occurred on 16 August, during a large Israeli military incursion, into Fawwar refugee camp near the city of Hebron. Residents reported that large numbers of Israeli security forces entered the camp starting in the early hours and over the course of the day, conducting extensive search operations inside more than 200 refugee households. Clashes between Palestinian youth and the Israeli security forces ensued. Israeli forces responded by using a range of munitions, including lethal, live ammunition, plastic-coated metal bullets (PCMBs), and large amounts of tear gas.

As a result, a reportedly unarmed 19-year old Palestine refugee from Fawwar camp was killed after being shot in the chest by live ammunition rounds reportedly fired by an Israeli sniper stationed approximately 100 meters away.  At least 52 other camp residents suffered injuries.  Thirty-two (32) of these 52 injuries were found mostly in the lower body parts, from live rounds fired by the Israeli military. At least thirteen (13) other camp residents had to be treated for severe tear gas inhalation, including a pregnant UNRWA teacher who required treatment after suffering from teargas inhalation whilst she was at her home.

During a visit at Fawwar camp to assess the situation, Scott Anderson, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, stated: “I commend the selfless actions and collective effort of the medical teams from UNRWA and the Palestine Red Crescent Society who quickly responded in providing emergency medical care to the large number of civilians injured during the incursion into the camp. I call on the Israeli authorities to uphold the standards of international law.”

Israeli forces prevented an ambulance from taking an injured person seeking medical help for over an hour before allowing it to pass through to its destination. During the incursion, refugees were prevented from entering or leaving the camp and a curfew was enforced to keep people trapped in their homes – a reminder of the recent closures in Hebron that created humanitarian access challenges for the 9,500 residents of Fawwar camp.

Israeli authorities, as the occupying power, have a responsibility first to protect the civilian population in the West Bank, including the Palestine refugees residing there. In conducting so called “security” or “law enforcement” operations such as the one in Fawwar camp, international legal standards require that Israeli forces exercise restraint, act in proportion to the legitimate objective to be achieved, minimize damage and injury and most importantly respect and preserve human life.  It should also ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment. The intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.  UNRWA calls on Israel to fully investigate the incident that led to the unfortunate death of the 19 year old refugee.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.