UNRWA Strongly Condemns Violations of the Inviolability and Neutrality of United Nations Installations in Ein El Hilweh

04 March 2017

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.”

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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank 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.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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