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5 November 2007



Situation of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza

Matthias Burchard of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said available was a press release on Lebanon. He recalled that over 31,000 residents of Nahr El Bared camp fled at the outburst of hostilities between the Lebanese army and Fatah al Islam militants in May, mainly to the southern camp of Beddawi. The return of displaced families started in early October. So far 1,184 families had returned. UNRWA had constructed 56 temporary shelters with water and electricity connection. Since the end of the conflict, the Agency had assisted 3,000 families with rental subsidies and temporary accommodation, so as to ease overcrowding and strain on services in Beddawi camp. Damage assessment on the new camp was still ongoing. The Lebanese army was still de-mining the camp. Once that was done, UNRWA would repair homes where possible and at the same time would plan for the larger scale reconstruction on the same site. UNRWA had appealed for $ 55 million in its emergency appeal for Nahr El Bared camp. So far, approximately $ 24 million had been pledged, including $ 10 million from the United States.

Mr. Burchard said that in Gaza, regarding the fuel issue, UNRWA took note that this issue was not closed, and a final decision was only suspended by the Israeli Attorney General, and hoped that ongoing consultations among various concerned parties would avert this. UNRWA was however very concerned about reports that fuel deliveries via the Nahel Oz pipeline had been reduced. If this was not reversed, it could have dire consequences. Thirty-five per cent of Gaza’s electricity came from the only fuel generator. It did not take much imagination to know the consequences of this on ordinary life, in particularly for the health sector. UNRWA was also concerned by the apparent Israeli intention to permanently close the Sufa crossing, since this would reduce by two thirds the capacity to import humanitarian goods - leaving only one crossing, Kerem Shalom in the south, which was not suited for major transactions and imports. UNRWA, with thousands of workers on the ground, was uniquely placed to make its own assessment of the humanitarian situation. It was therefore cynical to keep doubting the extent of the humanitarian crisis supported by reports from ICRC to World Bank.

In the West Bank, over the past months, UNRWA had been facing increasing and unprecedented restrictions in accessing communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. These affected both movement of staff and transport of goods. The cumulative effect of these restrictions strongly lowered UNRWA's ability to respond to the needs of its beneficiaries, in a context where they are made more and more needy, vulnerable and impoverished by the same access restrictions. For 2007, UNRWA had appealed for $ 245 million in emergency aid in the occupied Palestinians territories. As at 1 November, $ 132.6 million had been pledged, representing around 54 per cent of total budget needs. The shortfall of around $ 108 million had led to sizeable reductions in emergency activities across the board. UNRWA therefore appealed to the donor community to be forthcoming in the remaining months of this year.


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