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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
16 January 2013

UNRWA calls on all sides in Syria not to take up positions in refugee camps and to respect civilian areas

الأونروا تطالب كافة الأطراف في سورية بعدم اتخاذ مواقع لها في مخيمات اللاجئين وباحترام مناطق المدنيين

16 January 2013
East Jerusalem

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has called on all sides in the conflict in Syria to refrain from taking up positions in or conducting the conflict in civilian areas. A statement released from the Agency’s headquarters in Jerusalem appealed to the parties “to ensure the protection of Palestine refugees, other civilians and their property and to comply with their obligations under international law”. 

The UNRWA statement called for respect for “the sanctity of human life” and it said that there was a “duty to avoid arbitrary displacement of civilians”, stressing that “the integrity, inviolability and neutrality of United Nations premises, vehicles and other assets must be respected and safeguarded by all.” 

UNRWA is particularly concerned about the unrelenting and escalating conflict and its devastating impact on Palestine refugees in all areas of Syria, including those living in Damascus, Rif Damascus, Dera’a, Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Homs. The Agency’s concerns are deepening with reports of serious incidents which continue to occur, including in areas under the control of armed opposition elements.

In mid-December 2012, the conflict saw intense armed engagements inside Yarmouk, a suburb south of Damascus, which was home to over 150,000 Palestine refugees. This was followed by the incursion of armed opposition elements into Yarmouk and their taking up of positions in this civilian residential area, in turn attracting a military response more intense than previously seen. This has brought new highs of suffering to Palestinian and Syrian residents of Yarmouk who had already endured, since July 2012, the trauma of protracted conflict in their neighborhood.  Since mid-December 2012, the Yarmouk experience has been played out sequentially in other areas of Rif Damascus. 

In Yarmouk and elsewhere, many refugee homes have sustained serious damage. Many homes left vacant by fleeing refugee families have been broken into and looted. Several Palestine refugees who have returned to their homes to retrieve their possessions have been shot and killed or seriously injured.  

UNRWA reiterates its appeal to all sides to minimise the human suffering caused by the conflict in Syria, and to resolve their differences through dialogue and political negotiations. 

- Ends -

Background information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at USD 68 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724 

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