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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
9 August 2006

UNRWA Delivers Aid to Camps in Southern Lebanon

Mr. Sven Berthelsen, Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, was traveling with an aid convoy to UNRWA’s Rashidieh Camp outside the southern town of Tyre on Monday. When the convoy was closing in on Tyre, a vehicle meeting them was hit by a missile and swirled across the road almost crashing into a wall and partly blocking the road.

"If we had been three seconds faster our front vehicle would have crashed into the car that had just been hit" Mr. Berthelsen says.

Each UN convoy run is scheduled with the ‘concurrence’ of the Israeli military authorities. "They have all the details on where we are going, who we are in the convoy, our names, addresses and then this happens. To me it is almost like intimidation. And it happens at the expense of the humanitarian efforts" Mr. Berthelsen says.

He describes the situation in the isolated city of Tyre as very tense. Very few people remain in the centre of the city.

"We managed to off-load the eight UNRWA trucks in the convoy in about one and a half hours" says Berthelsen.

People are trapped in Rashidieh Camp; men, women, children, those with disabilities.

"If this area is attacked and people have to flee we will be in serious trouble here," says Berthelsen.

Thousands of inhabitants in the camps of southern Lebanon are unable to move to safer areas at the moment.

"There are reconnaissance planes in the air 24/7. That is the feeling they give to people. You can’t go out the door without being closely monitored" Berthelsen says.

On the way out the convoy had another close call: unfortunately a nearby motorcyclist was killed by a shell.

"Our area officers and our staff are doing a tremendous job. The health clinics are functioning, the water supply and the sanitation are still operational. Everyone is helping, teachers are involved in food distribution. But people are getting more and more dependent on the food rations we give them", Berthelsen says and excuses himself over the phone from Beirut to Jerusalem:

"Sorry, we are told to leave the building"

Ten minutes later we get him on the phone again and he explains:

"It was not a bomb. It was a canister carrying leaflets from the Israelis that did not open. It went through the roof of our tank station. It landed two meters from a pump. Nobody was hurt".

Richard Cook, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon reports that there is concern over the fact that no fuel will arrive from outside the country, which will create major problems in transportation and other operations, including the running of hospitals. In northern Lebanon, hospitals may close in a week; and the hospitals in the south might close in few days.

Mr. Cook reports that the humanitarian situation has become very difficult in the Tyre area. The only road linking the area to other parts of Lebanon was hit again on Tuesday. Repairs were not allowed. Seven UN trucks loaded with food parcels, non-food items and medical supplies are scheduled to leave Beirut to Ein el-Hilweh Camp on Wednesday, 9 August.

Two shells from an Israeli Navy gunboat landed outside the largest Palestine refugee camp early Wednesday. Ein el-Hilweh Camp outside Sidon is normally inhabited by 45,000 Palestine refugees. UNRWA’s Lebanon Field Office in Beirut reports that two people were killed and nine injured when two shells hit the western outskirts of the camp. The first shell hit a small residential house at one o’clock in the morning killing two persons and injuring one. At least one of the fatalities is a Palestine refugee. The second shell hit the office of a Palestinian official injuring one person.


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