- Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 09:25
On Monday 17th December, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) followed up and assessed with extreme worry and grave concern the horrific images captured by news agencies, and reports of numerous casualties and the flight of Palestine refugees from Yarmouk camp.
Initial reports indicate that air strikes hit the centre of Yarmouk, and the camp is said to be in a chaotic state; with ongoing fighting in the southern parts of the camp inching north-wards, and reports coming in of families trying to escape on foot as cars and other forms of transportation are not able to move within the camp.
UNRWA has repeatedly warned that if all parties to the Syrian armed conflict fail to fulfil their obligations to protect Palestine refugees and respect their neutrality, the consequences would be devastating and long lasting. The Agency has advocated to maintain the neutrality of the 525,000 Palestine refugees in Syria and not implicate them in the conflict. The horrible events of today raise serious questions about the stability and protection of the Palestine refugees in Syria.
Thus far, a significant number of Palestine refugees, as well as Syrians, have been killed, injured and compelled to leave. The killings in Yarmouk today send a clear and unfortunate signal that calls by UNRWA and others on all parties to spare civilians and to respect the neutrality of Palestine refugees are going unheeded.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi has appealed to the Syrian authorities, and all parties to the conflict, to safeguard the security of Palestine refugees wherever they reside in Syria. Grandi's appeal takes on an urgent nature following today's events.
The Agency will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves, and its dedicated staff will continue to assess the situation and render any needed assistance.
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, microfinance and emergency assistance.
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, supporting UNRWA's core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit.