1.1 Armed Clashes Spread to Several Fronts in Central Kosovo. Clashes between Serbian police backed by the military and armed Kosovo Albanians continued in several fronts in central Kosovo over the weekend, leaving many dead, wounded and/or displaced. According to media reports, the heaviest fighting began on 25 July and continued on the next day on (i) the Pristina-Pec road between Lapusnik and Kijevo, (ii) the Pristina-Prizren road between Stimlje and Suva Reka, and (iii) the Kosovska Mitrovica-Pec road around Srbica.
The Kosova Information Centre (QIK), which is close to the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), reported that the clashes were taking place not only on the main roads, but in the surrounding villages as well, resulting in immense material damage as a result of heavy shelling.
1.2 Both Sides Accuse Each Other For Starting the Offensive. The Serbian police claim that the weekend operation was a counter-offensive against an attack unleashed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) last Friday on a Yugoslav Army (VJ) convoy near Lapusnik. Kosovo Albanian sources say that the attack on the VJ was a fake and a pretext for an offensive. Meanwhile, western reporters on Monday were shown by the Serbian authorities "a network of KLA trenches, earthworks and dugouts on the high ground overlooking the valley between the villages of Komorane and Kijevo," according to Reuters. Both villages had been sealed off by armed ethnic Albanians for two months.
1.3 High Casualties Feared. On 26 July, QIK reported that at least 5 ethnic Albanians were confirmed to be killed and 24 people, including seven children, were wounded as a result of fighting on Saturday alone. It is feared that the total casualty-toll over the weekend is higher, as fighting continued beyond Saturday.
1.4 Exchange of Fire Along Kosovo-Albanian Border. Belgrade and Tirana authorities blame each other for a weekend incident along the Kosovo-Albanian border. Politika reported today that the Yugoslav Army (VJ) border guards had prevented attempts of over-night illegal border crossings between Saturday and Sunday in the vicinity of Vrbnica. The Yugoslav Army announced that their border guards who had prevented these illegal crossings were fired at from the Albanian territory. On the other hand, the Albanian Interior Ministry said on Sunday that "Serb soldiers opened fire towards the police building at the border checkpoint in Morini" in the district of Kukes. Today, the Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo issued a protest against Yugoslav authorities for "provocation" against Albania's territorial integrity. ATA news agency reported that women and children were evacuated to nearby villages.
1.5 UNSECOORD Declares Kosovo as Security Phase III. The Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) has instructed and the UN Agencies in FRY have agreed that as of today, Monday 27 July, all of Kosovo will be declared Security Phase III. This means that all UN staff must receive clearance from UNSECOORD before traveling into Kosovo.
1.6 37 Serb Refugees in Orahovac Relocated to Pristina. On 24 July, UNHCR completed its second round of assistance in relocating to Pristina a total of 37 Serb Refugees who were living in Orahovac, the site of last week's armed clashes. Most of these refugees were elderly persons, who had been displaced at least twice now, since they fled their homes during the Bosnian war. UNHCR hopes that the governments of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and FRY would swiftly enable repatriation of those wishing to return to their homes.
1.7 Resettlement Shuttle Continues. Since late June, UNHCR has been providing escorts to refugees living in various settlements in Kosovo who wished to travel to Pristina to process for resettlement to third countries, including Australia, Canada and USA. On 25 July, UNHCR escorted five refugees back from Pristina to collective centres in Djakovica and Prizren. These persons had come to Pristina for medical clearance and further interviews. UNHCR started this initiative after three refugees were kidnapped on the Djakovica-Pristina road late last month, as they were traveling towards Pristina to process for resettlement.
1.8 Schools for Parents May Be Expanded. In order to help families in crisis situations and to improve parents-children relations, UNICEF plans to extend "Schools for Parents" to the whole area of Kosovo. The first six-months of "school for families with disrupted family relations and parents of children with behavioural disorders" was completed this May. It was conducted in two languages, Albanian and Serbian. UNICEF is currently planning to provide training, in September, to teams of psychologists and social workers working with different group of families, including families with handicapped children, in 25 social welfare centres in Kosovo. The training will focus on methods of facilitating workshops for parents and supporting them in extending the best possible care to children.
2.1 Humanitarian Assistance Coordinated. An inter-agency logistics meeting was held on 24 July to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It is expected that, with the recent donation from the Government of Italy, part of the food requirements of 55,000 beneficiaries including refugees, social cases and IDPs, will be covered for several months: sugar/10 months, pasta/9 months, oil/5 months. MSF recently assessed the medical situation in Montenegro. According to the result of the assessment, IDPs currently have adequate access to medical services and drugs. Meanwhile, contingency stocks of medicine will be pre-positioned in Holland, in order to enable prompt response in case of a sudden large influx of IDPs in the future.
For information, please contact:
Kaoruko Seki, UNHCR Belgrade