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1. The present report is my twenty-third semi-annual report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004). It provides a review and an assessment of the implementation of the resolution since my previous report on the subject, which was issued on 7 October 2015 (S/2015/764). I note the continued lack of progress on key provisions of the resolution and highlight continued concerns about increasing pressure on the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Lebanon.
8. Lebanon continued to host the largest number of registered refugees per capita in the world, at 1,069,111. The number of Palestine refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic was at 41,000. On 4 February, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations co-hosted a conference in London to raise funds to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of refugees and Lebanese host communities, with a particular focus on education and job creation. In a statement of intent at the conference, the Government of Lebanon presented a five-year programme in which it acknowledged the protracted nature of the crisis and the need for more cost-effective interventions in the period going forward.
9. On 24 and 25 March, I visited Lebanon jointly with the President of the World Bank and the President of the Islamic Development Bank. The visit was aimed at promoting the new Concessional Financing Facility to help to alleviate the impact of the Syrian crisis on the Lebanese economy. The visit included field visits to Tripoli and the Bekaa valley. It allowed us to see first-hand Syrian refugee sites and the Palestine refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared.
36. In addition, several Palestinian armed groups continue to operate in the country inside and outside the refugee camps.
42. The situation in the Palestine refugee camps has been tense in recent months, following the announcement on 14 December that adjustments to the hospitalization policy of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would be implemented from January 2016, whereby the Agency increased the percentage of tertiary health-care coverage and introduced cost-sharing for some of the expenses previously borne fully by the organization. The Agency has also set up a complementary fund for those in abject poverty. The amendments to the health policy have resulted in repeated, widespread forced closures of UNRWA installations by various political and militant factions, threats to staff and the prevention of movement of goods and personnel. On 21 March, the Agency temporarily suspended the policy for a month to allow for its review. Separately, a Palestine refugee was killed in the Mieh Mieh refugee camp on 13 October. On 28 January, a member of Fatah al-Intifada was shot dead by a Palestinian individual in a personal dispute in the Shatila camp. On 28 March, an armed confrontation between Fatah and extremist elements took place in Ein el-Hillweh, leaving three fighters dead and seven families displaced. The Palestinian joint security force launched investigations into the incidents and continued to contribute to maintaining security in the camps, including by deploying heavily in the camp further to the incident of 28 March and calling for calm in its aftermath. On 12 April, a senior Fatah official in the Mieh Mieh camp was killed in a car bomb near Ein el-Hillweh.
43. Humanitarian conditions for Palestine refugees in Lebanon increasingly are dire, with some 41,000 refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic currently in Lebanon. This places tremendous additional pressure on the overall situation in the camps and gatherings and on the efforts of UNRWA to assist them. UNRWA has taken measures to reduce some of the tensions between the Palestine refugees who have been residing in Lebanon and those arriving from the Syrian Arab Republic by, for example, including refugee children in regular classes in UNRWA schools. During my visit to the Nahr el-Bared camp on 25 March, I welcomed the Government’s commitment to completing its reconstruction and urged the international community to provide funding to that end. I continued to urge the Lebanese authorities to improve the living conditions of the refugees. Those efforts should continue without prejudice to the eventual resolution of the Palestine refugee question in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement in the region.
44. The presence of Palestinian armed groups outside the camps continues to challenge the ability of Lebanon to exercise full sovereignty over its territory. Notwithstanding the decision taken in 2006 by the National Dialogue and confirmed in subsequent sessions, no progress was made during the reporting period with regard to dismantling the military bases of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada in the country. All but one of the bases are located along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Their presence continues to undermine Lebanese sovereignty and governmental authority and makes delineation of the border more difficult. It poses a serious challenge to the effective control of the eastern border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. I have reiterated my calls upon the Lebanese authorities for the implementation of earlier decisions of the National Dialogue, specifically those relating to the dismantling of the above-mentioned military bases, and upon the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to cooperate with those efforts in good faith.
62. The situation of Palestine refugees in Lebanon and the limited resources available to UNRWA to assist them remains a matter of concern, especially in the light of the continued presence of Palestine refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic who have fled the violence there. Continuing closures by political and militant groups jeopardize the Agency’s ability to meet its obligations to both the refugees and the international community. I count on the Government of Lebanon to continue to support and protect UNRWA services and staff so that the Agency remains able to assist the Palestine refugee community in Lebanon. Financial support to UNRWA remains crucial in allowing it to deliver vital services to Palestine refugees in Lebanon. I call upon donors to increase their support to the Agency. I note the work of the Palestinian joint security force in preventing an escalation of conflict on several occasions in the Ein el-Hillweh camp and welcome the renewed commitment of Palestinian leaders to disassociating the camps in Lebanon from the violence in the Syrian Arab Republic and the region more broadly.