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UNRWA strongly condemns shelling of a school in Gaza sheltering civilians and calls for an investigation
UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms the shelling of one of its schools in the central area of Gaza which was sheltering hundreds of Palestinians displaced by the current fighting. At approximately 1655 hours yesterday, UNRWA’s Maghazi Preparatory Girls School, in the Maghazi refugee camp, where approximately 300 internally displaced people had sought refuge was struck by explosive ordnance believed to have been fired by Israeli forces. One person, a child, was injured in the shelling incident. We have raised this shelling incident with the Israeli authorities.
This morning when UNRWA officials went back to investigate the incident, there was further shelling of the school, seriously endangering the lives of UN humanitarian workers and displaced civilians. This second incident took place at approximately 1029 hours this morning and was 30 minutes inside the 0900 to 1100 hours window of time that had been coordinated with Israeli authorities and the UN to allow freedom of movement for the relevant UN personnel through the Maghazi Camp area.
Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA said: “This is a serious violation of United Nations’ premises that could have had far-reaching human consequences. All UNRWA facilities are clearly marked with a UN flag. The location of the school and the fact that it was housing internally displaced persons had been formally communicated to Israel on three separate occasions. We have called on the Israeli authorities to carry out an immediate and comprehensive investigation.”
UNRWA has been forced to expand massively its emergency operations as more than 118,000 internally displaced people have taken refuge in 77 of the Agency’s schools throughout the Gaza Strip. This number has increased from 50,000 only two days ago. Director of UNRWA Operations, Robert Turner, said, “Our teams are already working flat out to meet the huge demand created by this escalation in violence, and it is absolutely critical that all parties to the conflict respect the neutrality and inviolability of our premises. Operating in this challenging environment is difficult enough; we need to be assured that staff and beneficiaries can enjoy safety and security within our premises. Civilian lives must not be put at further risk.”
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.
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