UNRWA condemns armed violence in Ein El Hilweh which forced children to flee amid live firing

Press Statement
Christopher Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson

Ain Al HIlweh camp, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Ain Al HIlweh camp, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Jerusalem 7 December 2016: UNRWA strongly condemns the armed violence that took place in the Ein El Hilweh Palestine Refugee camp in Lebanon, on 5 December 2016.

Armed violence, including the use of firearms, shocked and frightened Palestine refugees in the Bostan Al Qudes area in the proximity of four UNRWA schools – Faloujah, Hitten, Marj Ben Amer and Qibya schools – putting at considerable risk the lives of students receiving education from UNRWA. One armed person entered UNRWA schools without authorization, contrary to the inviolability and neutrality of UN premises and instructed children to leave the schools. The school buildings were clearly marked with a UN flag.

UNRWA students were able to evacuate the area without injury, notwithstanding that live fire continued while the children were leaving.

As a result of the incident, all UNRWA schools and installations were closed in Ein El Hilweh on 5 December 2016. Due to repeated armed violence and increased risks to civilian lives, UNRWA suspended its operations in the camp today 7 December 2016 for one day.

UNRWA calls on all those involved to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the protection of Palestine refugees, particularly of children.

UNRWA urges all armed actors to respect the inviolability and neutrality of UNRWA premises in accordance with international law and to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of UNRWA staff, students and installations.

As a humanitarian organization we are significantly concerned that armed violence and disturbances taking place in Ein El Hilweh, where tens of thousands of Palestine refugees live, affects the security, safety and the enjoyment of rights of its residents including children’s rights to education.

UNRWA will continue to monitor developments and we will continue our dialogue with all relevant actors to advocate for the safety and dignity of Palestine refugees living in Ein el Hilweh. In the meantime we aim to resume and continue with our service delivery in the camp tomorrow.

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.