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Personnes déplacées en 1967/Assistance humanitaire/Rapport d'intérim de la Mission Gussing - Rapport du Secrétaire général

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        General Assembly
        Security Council

18 August 1967

Original: English

Fifth emergency special session
Agenda item 5


Report by the Secretary-General under General Assembly resolution 2252
(ES-V) and Security Council resolution 257 (1967)

1. At its 1548th plenary meeting, on 4 July 1967, the General Assembly adopted resolution 2252 (ES-V) on humanitarian assistance with a view to alleviating "the suffering inflicted on civilians and on prisoners of war as a result of the recent hostilities in the Middle East". In paragraph 10 of that resolution, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to report urgently to the General Assembly on the needs arising under paragraphs 5 and 6 of the resolution. In these paragraphs the Assembly endorsed the efforts of the Commissioner-General of UNRWA to provide assistance on an emergency basis and as a temporary measure to persons other than UNRWA refugees who are at present displaced and in serious need, and welcomed the close co-operation of UNRWA and other organizations concerned for the purpose of co-ordinating assistance.

2. In its resolution 237 (1967) of 14 June 1967 relating to the alleviation of the sufferings of civil populations and prisoners of war in the area of conflict, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to follow the effective implementation of the resolution and to report to the Security Council. With that end in view, the Secretary-General sent Mr. Nils-Goran Gussing to the Middle East in early July to obtain on the spot the information required for the effective discharge by the Secretary-General of his responsibilities under paragraph 3 of Security Council resolution 237 (1967). 1/

3. The present report is based upon information received from the Commissioner-General of UNRWA and from interim reports received from Mr. Gussing. The Secretary-General felt that it might be useful for Members to have at this stage some additional information on the humanitarian aspects of the situation in the Middle East.


4. The categories of persons to whom General Assembly resolution 2252 (ES-V) refers are, first, the refugees who lost their homes in the conflict of 1948 and who were registered as eligible for UNRWA assistance before the recent hostilities began and, second, the newly displaced persons.

5. The second category includes a large number of the refugees who were displaced from their homes in the 1948 conflict and who have now been uprooted for a second time. It also includes a large number of persons who were not previously registered with UNRWA for the reason that they had not lost their homes and livelihood in the conflict of 1948. Finally, it includes an intermediate group of persons who became refugees in 1948, in the sense that they lost their homes and all or part of their property, but who were never registered with UNRWA because they were able to fend for themselves.

6. The greater part of the newly displaced persons are those who moved from the West Bank of the Jordan to east Jordan during and after the recent hostilities, virtually all of whom were of Palestinian origin. But more than 100,000 people, including some 17,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA, moved from the now occupied part of Syria into non-occupied areas. Moreover, within the West Bank area some displacement of people occurred, particularly from the border villages, although most of these people have remained on the West Bank. However, in all these cases the people were still to be found within the existing area of the Agency's operations. A different case is that of the people who are now within the territory of the United Arab Republic, which was not previously a territory within which the Agency operated relief services. The majority of these people have moved from Sinai, but there are also some 3,000 registered refugees from Gaza. UNRWA has regarded this group as falling under paragraph 6 of the resolution, and, by arrangement with the Government of the United Arab Republic, the Agency has agreed to assist with food supplies for this particular group.


7. In practice, UNRWA has not been required to cater for the needs of all persons potentially falling under its mandate by virtue of paragraphs 5 and 6 of General Assembly resolution 2252 (ES-V). The Governments concerned, other United Nations agencies and a number of non-governmental organizations have borne a large part of the burden. In any case, the Agency's ability to cope with the newly displaced persons was clearly subject to practical limitations and this was recognized specifically by the terms of paragraph 6 of the resolution.

8. The needs of the persons referred to in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the resolution are of three different kinds: first, there is the temporary, presumably short-term, need for emergency relief to enable them to survive in the conditions immediately arising from the recent hostilities; second, there is the continuing need of the registered refugees for the services which UNRWA has provided for the past seventeen years - a need which may extend also to other displaced persons if the present state of affairs is prolonged; and third, there is a potential long-term need for an expanded programme of rehabilitation for those persons, both registered refugees and newly displaced, whose capacity to support themselves has been adversely affected by the outcome of the recent hostilities. It will be appreciated that, at the present time, it is not possible to define the temporal extent of the first of these three needs. That depends, to a large degree, on whether the newly displaced persons in Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Republic will be able, to return to their former places of residence and will wish to do so. So far, the arrangements for return, now under discussion, relate only to the West Bank of the Jordan. Under the auspices of the Red Cross, agreement was reached on 6 August between Israel and Jordan on, the repatriation of refugees to the West Bank, and the date fixed for the return of refugees to the West Bank has been extended to 31 August. The most recent information is that some 32,000 families, totaling an estimated 160,000 persons, had submitted applications to return to the West Bank as of 16 August and that facilities for receiving applications were being kept open. It was hoped that movement back to the West Bank might start on 18 August. UNRWA has prepared a transit camp on the east bank to facilitate this movement. The scope and duration of the third, longer-term, need will be materially affected by the number of persons who return to their former places of residence and the decisions which may be reached regarding the status of areas now occupied by Israel.

9. This report has been prepared in the context of existing circumstances in order to indicate what the additional needs may be, if and for as long as these circumstances continue. This does not, of course, imply any judgement on the political issues involved.

Emergency measures

10. By the beginning of August 1967, two months after the hostilities in the Middle East had begun the immediate minimal needs of the persons displaced during and after the hostilities for food, shelter and health services were being met, but the arrangements were still precarious and needed strengthening and regularizing. Co-ordination of efforts to meet these needs was steadily improving and wasteful duplication seems to have been avoided.

11. The number of refugees registered with UNRWA who had moved, during or after the conflict, was estimated at 113,000 of whom the largest number - about 93,000 - had moved from the West Bank of the Jordan River to the east bank. Another 17,000 had moved from the southwestern corner of Syria to the areas of Damascus and Deraa, and some 3,000 former residents of the Gaza Strip were in the United Arab Republic.

12. Persons not previously registered with UNRWA moved in even larger numbers some 210,000. The number of persons who had moved from the western to the eastern side of the Jordan was believed to be about 85,000, from the southern part of Syria to Damascus and Deraa about 90,000, and from Sinai westward across the Suez Canal a further 35,000.

13. Many Governments and organizations have sent food, medical supplies, tents, blankets and other help. Some of this assistance has taken the form of bilateral aid, some has been channeled through UNRWA and the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations, and some has been distributed by voluntary agencies. Major assistance in feeding persons not previously registered with UNRWA has been authorized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme, and UNICEF has been helping with food and support for health activities. Both these programmes are understood to be of limited duration, for a period of between three and six months.

14. Special additional help has taken various forms. Food was distributed by UNRWA to its regular beneficiaries, including those who were displaced in Jordan and Syria. The number of rations issued was temporarily increased by 100,000 in the Gaza Strip, Syria, the West Bank and east Jordan. In addition, UNRWA distributed government supplies to non-UNRWA displaced persons in east Jordan, in anticipation of the supplies to be provided by FAO and the World Food Programme, and the Government of Syria provided food to displaced Syrians. In the United Arab Republic, assistance was given by the Government, and help was also provided by UNRWA, FAO and the World Food Programme, and UNICEF.

15. Hot meals and milk were provided by UNRWA to some 50,000 additional persons, and food-stuffs were provided by UNRWA on an emergency basis to hospitals and institutions. For the displaced, canned meat and CSM (corn-soya mixture) was added to the monthly ration.

16. Temporary shelter has been provided to 65,000 persons in eight tented camps in Jordan, by the combined efforts of UNRWA, the Government and other organizations, and tents have been made available for some of the displaced persons in Syria. In the camps the water supplies were improved and protected, and latrines were constructed.

17. If the return of the displaced persons in east Jordan and Syria to their former dwellings is delayed, a large and costly need will arise to replace with more durable shelter many of the tents already erected, since these are small and light and will not provide adequate protection during the severe winter weather in these areas. The total cost might exceed $1 million.

18. Health services continued to operate throughout the emergency and were quickly re-established on a normal basis. Medical facilities were made available to additional groups in need, with the help of UNICEF and other organizations. Inoculation campaigns were instituted. Clothing, blankets and family kits of basic household utensils were issued.

19. The additional services being provided by UNRWA have increased its expenditures at the rate of several million dollars a year. It should be noted also that UNRWA had been facing a deficit for 1967 of about $4 million before the hostilities, which would have forced a reduction in services unless additional income were received. These services are now more necessary than ever, and must be maintained.

20. There still remains the large task of repairing and reconstructing damaged buildings and of replenishing equipment and supplies that have been lost. The cost to UNRWA of this repair and replacement is still being studied, but it is expected to total nearly $1 million. This additional burden has been superimposed on a budget which already, for the fourth year in succession, showed a massive deficit. Solution of the longer-term problem of putting the regular financing of the Agency on a sounder footing remains an urgent necessity.

Continuing services

21. The Agency's administrative framework - staff, transport, supplies and installations - emerged from the period of hostilities in better condition than might have been expected, and within a short time food and health services were again being provided to registered refugees in all areas. These services are now operating more or less normally. It is still too early to estimate the increase in these services that will be needed or the additional financial provision that UNRWA will be required to make. Much of the emergency help provided by Governments, international organizations like FAO and the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Red Cross, and other agencies may not extend beyond the first few months, and it is probable that UNRWA will be required to face the continuing needs; the financial burden could amount to about $10 million annually.

22. In the next few weeks, a major effort will be required to reopen the schools and training facilities. This will impose a heavy burden both on the Government concerned and on UNRWA.

23. In Lebanon, no special problems are foreseen in this connection.

24. In Syria, the UNRWA schools in the Damascus area are still occupied by displaced persons and must be cleared in time for the next school year. This will depend on either the return of the displaced persons to their former homes in the south of Syria or the provision of other temporary accommodation, presumably in tented camps. The training center at Homs is also occupied by Syrian refugees from the south. The vocational training center near Damascus has already been reopened and all but one of the previous trainees are back at work there.

25. In east Jordan, the schools previously occupied by displaced persons have now been cleared and should be ready for use when the new school year begins. Three of the Agency's training centers (the Kalandia vocational training center, the men's teacher training center at Ramallah and the women's combined teacher and vocational training center, also at Ramallah) are situated on the West Bank. They formerly served the whole refugee population in Jordan - indeed, the Ramallah women's center also admitted a number of trainees from the other three host countries - but, in present circumstances, it seems unlikely that they will be able to admit trainees from east Jordan. UNRWA accordingly would like to open two temporary training centers in east Jordan, one to serve as a men is teacher training center and the other as a combined teacher and vocational training center for women. The existing vocational training center for boys at Wadi Seer (near Amman) will also be available to serve the needs of the registered refugees in east Jordan.

26. On the West Bank, discussions are under way between the Government of Israel and UNRWA with a view to resuming the operation of UNRWA schools and training centers. In Gaza, the vocational training center has already been reopened and the schools will reopen in September. Plans for the expansion of the Gaza vocational training center were worked out with the United Arab Republic authorities before the recent hostilities and the Agency hopes to be able to go ahead with these plans with a view to increasing the capacity of the center from 368 to 568. The training centers on the West Bank and in Gaza emerged unscathed from the hostilities.

27. Much work will have to be done in repairing and rebuilding school premises and in replacing furniture and equipment which was destroyed or lost during and after the hostilities in Gaza and on the West Bank. Until this work is completed, there will inevitably be an increase in the double shift system of classes in the schools affected. Considerable numbers of locally recruited Agency teachers have been displaced from both the West Bank and Gaza and, unless they are allowed to return, UNRWA will face a serious shortage of trained teaching staff.

28. For the newly displaced persons in Jordan and Syria some temporary provision of schools will be necessary pending their return to their former dwellings.

In east Jordan about 250 marquees are available for this purpose and furniture and equipment are being prepared. Whether this will suffice depends on how many of these persons will be able and willing to return to west Jordan; but, in the prevailing uncertainty, it seems to UNRWA that this represents a reasonable provision for emergency schooling.

29. In Syria arrangements are being made to move into tents the UNRWA refugees now accommodated in school buildings. But the intentions of the Government in regard to the much larger number of Syrian refugees now living in schools are not yet known.

Longer-term rehabilitation

30. The recent hostilities have had the effect of separating the West Bank of the Jordan from the rest of Jordan, the Old City of Jerusalem from the remainder of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip from the United Arab Republic (to which Gaza' bad been linked economically as well as politically for the past nineteen years) and the Quneitra area in the south of Syria from the rest of that country. The economic effect of these separations on the population - both refugee and non-refugee of the areas in question must be far-reaching, even if not as yet precisely definable. There are at present too many uncertainties and imponderables for anyone to venture an answer to the question of how a continuation of the present state of affairs may affect the capacity of the inhabitants of the areas concerned to support themselves and, hence, may affect their need for help in rehabilitating themselves. However, some preliminary comment may be helpful with a view to indicating the nature and dimensions of the problem in the area, namely east Jordan, where the economic impact of recent events has been most severe.

31. In discussing the effect which the separation of the West Bank from east Jordan may have on the prospects of rehabilitation for the refugee community in east Jordan, it seems necessary first of all to correct the misconception that prevails in many quarters outside the middle East that for the past nineteen years the Palestine refugees have been "rotting in idleness" in the camps established by UNRWA. In truth, one fifth of the refugees from the 1948 conflict re-established themselves in the Arab world by their own efforts and have never been a charge on UNRWA. The remainder were, for the most part, poorer people of farming stock and it was their misfortune that the countries where they found refuge already had a surplus of locally born peasant farmers and already faced grave problems in ensuring a livelihood for their own citizens. Even so, many of these poorer refugees found homes for themselves in the towns and villages of the host countries and the number of refugees living in the UNRWA camps has never exceeded 40 per cent of the total refugee population. Moreover, it is quite misleading to assume that because the camps remained and, in fact, grew in size and because the refugees continued to live in them, no progress was being made towards the economic rehabilitation of the camp inhabitants. This misconception seems to derive from experience in dealing with the refugees in Europe, where great emphasis was placed on clearing the camps as evidence of rehabilitation. Such ideas were not applicable to the problem of the Palestine refugees since, unless they were allowed to return to their former homes, there was nowhere else for the refugees living in the UNRWA camps to go. In the circumstances existing and in the absence of a political solution, the best they could hope for in this respect -was a gradual improvement of the living conditions in the camps, and this is in fact what has been taking place - sometimes to a marked degree, particularly where the camps were located in areas in which good opportunities for employment existed. Some of the refugee camps, indeed, had developed into thriving communities, even though they were still at a fairly low social and economic level and still contained many families living on the edge of subsistence.

32. For the first few years after 1948 there was no doubt some truth in the idea that the refugees living in the UNRWA camps were stagnating in enforced idleness. But for many years past, any generalization of this kind has not corresponded to the facts. Although on the political plane the problem of the Palestine refugees has, regrettably, remained hopelessly deadlocked, on the social and economic plane much solid and undeniable progress has been made in improving their condition. This progress has been primarily due to three factors: first and foremost, the rapid economic development of the Arab host countries and of the Arab world generally in recent years; second, the energy, intelligence and adaptability of the refugees themselves, who have fortunately shown themselves to be eager for work and very capable of profiting by any opportunity given to them; and third, the education and training which the host Governments, various voluntary agencies and UNRWA have been able to give the young refugees to enable them to take advantage of any opportunities of employment that might come their way. A subsidiary but not unimportant adjunct to these principal factors in the rehabilitation of the refugees has been the economic aid supplied by UNRWA in the form of rations, shelter and other relief services. The regular provision of this relief assistance over an extended period, even though on a meager scale, has certainly helped the refugees not merely to survive but to recover their capacity to support themselves.

33. It is true that it has not proved possible for UNRWA to reflect adequately the extent of this rehabilitation in its published statistics of the number of refugees who have been rendered self-supporting and from whom relief assistance has therefore been withdrawn. But, however regrettable this may be - and, in fairness to UNRWA and the Arab host Governments, the difficulty of measuring degrees of progress in economic rehabilitation among a mass of people living not much above subsistence level needs to be recognized - it does not alter the reality of the progress that had been made.

34. In Jordan, official and authoritative statements have been made in recent years indicating not only a very high level of economic growth for the country as a whole but also suggesting that the problem of unemployment and underemployment which has chronically beset the Jordanian economy -was within sight of solution. These statements implied that within a few years Jordan, in spite of its not having been endowed with abundant natural resources, might look forward to becoming economically viable and independent of external aid. This could only mean that, in common with the other citizens of Jordan, the 720,000 refugees, representing over half of the whole [refugee] population, were rapidly achieving the capacity to support themselves and, hence, that the social and economic aspects of the refugee problem in Jordan, though not the political, were well on the way, if not to a solution, at least to a partial remedy.

35. This hopeful trend towards the social and economic rehabilitation of the refugees has, for the time being at least, been not merely arrested but actually reversed by the economic consequences of the recent hostilities. The capacity of the whole population in east Jordan to support themselves can only be adversely and gravely affected by the state of affairs resulting from the war. Those affected will be not only the newly displaced persons from the vest bank but also many of those persons, both refugee and non-refugee, who were living on the east bank before the hostilities began and whose livelihood depended either directly or indirectly on economic activity located on or associated with the West Bank. It seems probable that the refugees, both those newly displaced and those formerly residing in east Jordan, will feel most severely the impact of the disruption of the Jordanian economy, since their economic base is in general more precarious than that of the permanent residents of east Jordan.

36. Remedial action, if it becomes necessary, to promote the rehabilitation of those affected will have to be on a massive scale and, even so, the task of providing a decent livelihood for a population of some 1,250,000 in east Jordan, where so much of the land is desert and unproductive, is likely to prove extremely difficult. The main element in a programme of remedial action would have to be labor- intensive capital projects and the development of agricultural and water resources. An expansion of education and training in order to put to productive use the surplus of human resources which has accumulated in east Jordan would be a second important element.

37. The role which UNRWA in particular might play would lie in expanding and improving its education programme and training facilities for the refugees in east Jordan. A recent survey (carried out before the hostilities) indicated that, throughout the whole area of its operations, UNRWA could put to very beneficial use about $10.5 million of capital and about $7 million of recurrent expenditure in improving its educational programme (over and above the $16.5 million which it is currently spending on its existing educational services), with particular emphasis on equipping as many as possible of the young refugees for productive employment. About one third of this expenditure would be required in east Jordan.

38. So many uncertainties overhang the future of the people living on the West Bank that it is impossible at this stage to express even in general terms how their capacity to support themselves, and hence, how their need for help towards that end may have been affected by recent events. But it is possible that a large programme of economic development may be necessary there also.

39. In Gaza, a problem which was basically insoluble in the conditions existing before the recent hostilities may have been rendered even more intractable by recent events. But again many uncertainties overhang the future of the people living there and render prediction futile at this stage. In this context, it should perhaps be mentioned that there are reports of some organized visits in six fifty-seater buses of refugees from Gaza to the West Bank, for which the Israel authorities accept applications. There are further unconfirmed reports that some of the refugees on these visits do not return from the West Bank to Gaza, and that some in fact even reach the east bank. Even before the recent hostilities it was clear that, if there was ever to be a solution of the problem of the refugees in Gaza, some political decision about their future would be required, and they would need generous help in re-establishing themselves.

40. It is by no means clear whether the longer-term tasks of rehabilitation will fall directly on the United Nations, especially UNRWA, on the specialized agencies, on the Governments directly concerned, or on voluntary agencies. There is, however, an obvious need for a restatement of the essential nature of these longer-term measures and for an examination of how these tasks can be undertaken.

Activities of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General

41. Mr. Nils-Goran Gussing, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, has now visited all of the countries with which he is concerned and has taken up a number of problems with the appropriate authorities. In Israel the Special Representative held consultations with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and the Deputy Director of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. On his first visit to Israel, he visited the Old City of Jerusalem, Nablus and the prisoner-of-war camp of Athlit. He also examined with the Israel Government the problem of the return of the refugees from the east bank of the Jordan River to the vest bank. Mr. Gussing has made a second visit to Israel and visits in detail to the areas under Israel occupation.

42. On his visit to Syria, Mr. Gussing's programme included consultations with the Prime Minister, the Minister and Secretary-General of the Interior, the Secretary-General of Foreign Affairs and representatives of the United Nations Development Programme, the Israel-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNRWA and the Syrian Red Crescent. He also visited temporary accommodations for refugees in Damascus, whose numbers are estimated at between 105,000 and 110,000, including 16,000 UNRWA refugees. In addition, he has discussed various aspects of the refugee problem with the Syrian authorities.

43. In Jordan, the Special Representative held consultations with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Inter-ministerial Committee for Refugee Affairs, as well as with representatives of the United Nations Development Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross Societies, the Red Crescent and UNRWA. He visited refugee camps in different parts of the country, including new camps set up by UNRWA and an old UNRWA camp which has been extended to hold new refugees. He discussed with the Jordan Government, among other matters, the question of the return of refugees to the West Bank and the modalities of that return.

44. Prior to his visit to Egypt from 26 to 29 July 1967, Mr. Gussing met with the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Cyprus. In Egypt, he held consultations with the Under-Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs and the representatives of the United Nations Development Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross. He visited refugee camps and also eight of the ten Israel prisoners of war held in Egypt.

45. Mr. Gussing's first round of visits to the countries principally concerned has provided an opportunity for the Governments to express their views and list their complaints and for him to receive requests to visit particular localities and areas. He has also given consideration, during his consultations with the Governments in the area, to the question of the status and well-being of minority groups in the various countries concerned. Mr. Gussing plans to complete a second and comprehensive round of visits by the end of August, at which time he expects to be in a position to prepare his final report to the Secretary-General, with a view to submitting it by mid-September.



* Also issued under the symbol S/8124.


1/ See S/8021.

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