UNRWA Condemns the Death of Staff Member in Syria

16 July 2013

UNRWA expresses great sorrow at the death of another member of staff in Syria, who lost his life as a result of the ongoing conflict. Muhannad Ashmawi, born 18 July, 1974, joined UNRWA in 2007 as a school attendant. He served in two UNRWA schools in Yarmouk, where he had lived alone after sending his wife, son and daughter, aged 12 and 9, to safety in Lattakia, western Syria. On 9 July, Mr. Ashmawi sustained serious head injuries when a shell exploded at the southern end of Palestine Street in Yarmouk. Ongoing conflict prevents the functioning of hospitals or clinics in Yarmouk, so Mr Ashmawi was rushed by neighbours to Al Moshtahed hospital in central Damascus.  He died of his injuries on 14 July. UNRWA sends its deep and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Muhannad Ashmawi.
UNRWA has informed the Syrian authorities of the death of its staff member and is reiterating its calls to afford protection from the effects of armed conflict for refugees and other civilians across Syria. 
Muhannad Ashmawi is the seventh UNRWA staff member to be killed as a result of the Syria conflict. His tragic death occurs against the backdrop of intensifying armed conflict in Yarmouk and other Palestine refugee camps and neighbourhoods across Syria. This is aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation, causing new waves of significant, recurrent displacement and raising the toll of deaths and serious injuries among Palestinians and Syrians.
In Damascus Governorate, armed hostilities are frequently occurring in Yarmouk, Qabr Essit, Sbeineh and Husseiniyah camps with the loss of several Palestine refugee lives in recent weeks. In Dera’a, intense clashes and shelling continue in the vicinity of Dera’a refugee camp, while fierce hostilities in Homs have resulted in a number of shells and stray bullets impacting the Palestine refugee camp.
UNRWA condemns the persistent failure of all sides to protect civilians and safeguard human life in Syria. Violations of international humanitarian law are causing civilian deaths, injuries and displacement, including among the Palestine refugee community in Syria. Armed opposition groups and other parties to the conflict must desist from taking up positions or conducting the conflict in Palestine refugee camps and other civilian areas.

UNRWA deplores the immeasurable, needless human suffering that continues to affect communities across Syria. This is due to insistence on attempting to resolve the Syria conflict militarily. In the strongest terms, UNRWA reiterates its appeal to all concerned parties to end the suffering, comply with their obligations under international law and resolve the conflict in Syria through mediated dialogue and negotiations.

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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
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+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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