Statement by Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson
Today, 3 March 2017, an UNRWA security mission conducted a preliminary inspection to ascertain the extent of the damage to UNRWA’s installations in Ein El Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon, following several days of clashes in the camp.
The inspection revealed that five UNRWA installations - three schools, one Relief and Social Services Office and the Camp Services Office have been entered and used by armed actors, contrary to the inviolability of United Nations premises.
The Agency’s Marj Ben Ammer school and one UNRWA Relief and Social Services Office have sustained significant material damage. The cost of the damage to UNRWA installations is yet to be finally determined. Once the situation permits, the Agency will conduct a full assessment of the damages and will consider seeking compensation from relevant actors, as appropriate.
UNRWA strongly condemns these violations of the inviolability and neutrality of United Nations installations.
The human impact of the recent conflict in Ein El Hilweh is also of deep concern. As at 3 March 2017 it has been reported that a total of nine persons have been injured, including one child and one UNRWA staff member, and one person has died as a result of the recent violence.
UNRWA is disturbed about the preliminary indications of the extent of the violence, including unexploded ordinance found next to the UNRWA Camp Services Office. Private homes and vehicles have been burnt, particularly in the vicinity of the Agency’s Marj Ben Ammer School. UNRWA cannot currently confirm that armed factions are no longer present within Agency installations in Ein El Hilweh. We have received reports that following the inspection of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Office in the camp, armed actors may have re-entered and resumed their presence within the installation.
As a result of the violence, all of UNRWA’s education, health and other services in the camp continue to be suspended, and will not reopen until relevant actors can give guarantees of the safety and security of UNRWA staff and civilians, including children. Furthermore, the level of garbage caused by the lack of refuse collection has rendered some streets almost impassable and is becoming a public health risk. Interim measures to ensure service provision to Palestine refugees from Ein El Hilweh for health and sanitation services are in place. We are continually assessing the situation in order to resume our services fully.
UNRWA again calls on all armed actors operating in the camp to maintain the cessation of recent hostilities and take all necessary measures to protect civilians, to respect the inviolability and neutrality of UN premises, and ensure safe access to schools, clinics and other vital services.”