UNRWA mourns the loss of a young student at one of its schools in Gaza

15 November 2019

UNRWA hopes that the ceasefire that was reached the night of 13 November will put an end to two days of escalation between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military operations reportedly saw 34 Palestinians[1] killed, including 8 children, and dozens more injured in Israeli air strikes.  

 “We are truly saddened by the killing of one of our young students. Ameer Rafat Ayad was in second grade at the UNRWA Zaitoon Elementary School,” said Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza. “It is completely unacceptable for civilians, especially children, to lose their lives in this terrible way; children who should be studying, enjoying their childhood and preparing for their future.”

He added that it is not just innocent civilians being killed or seriously injured that cause suffering.  “We have to recognize and address the psychological effects, the fear and the lasting trauma such escalations leave on the population,” said Schmale.  All of UNRWA 22 health centers continued to operate throughout the hostilities, while the Agency closed its 276 schools across Gaza for three days in an attempt to minimize risks on its students and staff. The UNRWA Shijaya Co-ed Elem A and B School sustained minor damage on 12 November due to its location near a home targeted in the attack by Israel. 

“We remain in a heightened state of readiness  and hope the ceasefire will last. We also hope to return all our services to full operation shortly. The majority of the population in the Gaza Strip, 1.4 million out of 1.9 million people, are registered Palestine refugees who depend heavily on UNRWA for health, education, relief and protection services,” said Schmale.


[1] Figures from the Gaza Ministry of Health

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.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+962 (0)79 090 0140