UNRWA Commissioner-General Visits Gaza After Latest Violence

23 May 2021
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini  visits the site of an air strike, one of many buildings destroyed in this latest round of violence in Gaza. © 2021 UNRWA Photo by Mohammed Hinnawi

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini is in Gaza for the first time after the latest round of violence. Mr. Lazzarini underscored the Agency’s commitment to the rights and wellbeing of Palestine refugees, who form over 70% of Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants.

“I am deeply frustrated at this senseless episode of extreme violence that killed civilians, destroyed infrastructure and threw Gaza back several years,” said Mr. Lazzarini. “19 of the 60 children killed in this conflict went to UNRWA schools, they were known to my colleagues.”

Mr. Lazzarini visited Shifa Hospital where he met Sarah, a five-year-old who was paralyzed by a shrapnel that hit her during an airstrike on her building. She requires immediate evacuation for medical treatment aboard. He also visited the site of the building where ten members of the Abu Hatab family were killed. He met a surviving member, who lost his wife and four children, as well as his sister and four of her children. “The lasting psychosocial impacts of the violence are immeasurable. The ensuing mental health crisis will require the fullest funding of our psychosocial services,” Mr. Lazzarini reiterated.

Mr. Lazzarini visited families in Beach and Jabaliya refugee camps and met with UNRWA staff implementing emergency relief efforts, such as fixing a huge water pipe and organizing assistance to displaced people in an UNRWA school. “Every morning during the eleven-day conflict our colleagues went to work without knowing whether they would come back to their families.,” said Mr. Lazzarini.

In line with the US$ 38 million flash appeal, UNRWA calls on the international community to fund the Agency’s efforts to fulfill the most urgent humanitarian needs of affected populations in Gaza and the West Bank. In addition to the damages resulting from Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and continued unrest in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. “I leave Gaza with an urgent mission: to ensure that stability remains in the lives of Palestine refugees in Gaza through a strong UNRWA. I will also remind the international community that without addressing the root causes of the conflict, the occupation, the displacement, of which we had a strong reminder in East Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, the blockade and the cycle of violence – this sense of normality will only be a mirage until the next conflict,” concluded Mr. Lazzarini.