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13 March 2002
UNITED NATIONS RELIEF AND WORKS AGENCY
FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES IN THE NEAR EAST
West Bank Field Office, P.O. Box 19149, Jerusalem
Telephone: (02) 408 Facsimile: (02) 5322842
UNRWA school in Amari camp occupied
Israeli army units entered Amari camp in the Ramallah/el-Bireh area in the early hours of 12 March. The Israeli soldiers that surrounded Amari dug trenches and a few hours later a house-to-house search campaign was conducted in several quarters of the camps.
As in previous incursions, and despite repeated protests to the Israeli government, Israeli army units entered the UNRWA boys' school in the camp. Tanks tore down the wall surrounding the school and took over the top floors, turning the school into an observation post and a staging area for the soldiers. The school compound was used to detain scores of camp residents who were held at gunpoint in sitting positions with their hands on their heads. This action followed a pattern of UNRWA schools in refugee camps used by the IDF as detention centres since the incursion into camps began on 27 February 2002. UNRWA has in the past two weeks protested in the strongest terms possible to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the Ministry of Defense and insisted that the IDF leave UN premises.
Soldiers also broke into the Agency clinic, punching large holes in the walls leading to the nearby Youth Centre and causing other damage. Several UNRWA staff members were trapped inside UNRWA installations for more than 36 hours after the army broke into the camp and were unable to leave the premises fearing for their lives.
Responding to pleas from camp residents and from the nearby Ramallah hospital, UNRWA was able to enter Amari camp this afternoon and was able to deliver emergency food parcels. The besieged Ramallah Government Hospital, which reported serious shortages of oxygen cylinders, water and food for the patients and the medical staff, received these items after UNRWA emergency teams succeeded in entering the hospital.
UNRWA staff who entered Amari reported that camp residents expressed worry and fear that the situation will deteriorate further. UNRWA is monitoring the situation and further medical and relief assistance is underway.
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Sami Mshasha on (+972) 2-5890 408 or 050 317 094