On the afternoon of 25 February, Basem al-Hindi, a 14 year-old Palestine refugee living in Syria, sustained serious shrapnel wounds to his head when a suspected mortar round exploded on a public road in Damascus. A few hours later, Basem died of his wounds. This fatal incident occurred in Qaboun, Damascus, within metres of UNRWA’s Tantouri School, where Basem was a student. Tantouri is one of thirty schools managed by UNRWA and currently functioning in the wider area of Rif Damascus.
The explosion that took the life of Basem al-Hindi occurred approximately ten minutes after the school day had ended, and as the 250 Palestine refugee children attending Tantouri School were streaming out of the compound to head home, many of them on foot. One other Palestinian student was injured in the explosion, while a Syrian man and his two daughters were killed. The explosion reportedly targeted a checkpoint recently set up close to the school.
UNRWA is saddened by this tragic and violent end to the life of a Palestine refugee child and three members of a Syrian family. The thoughts of UNRWA and its staff are with the families of all those involved, both Palestinian and Syrian.
UNRWA strongly condemns the perpetrators of this act, and deplores the flagrant manner in which the safety and lives of so many Palestine refugee children in the area were placed in grave danger. No military or political objective could justify such blatant disregard for the safety of children or the sanctity of human life.
UNRWA repeats its call to all sides to desist from taking up positions or conducting the conflict in residential areas. All sides must comply with their international legal obligations, notably the duty to respect and preserve human life, and to protect refugees and other civilians in armed conflict.
UNRWA, once more and with a renewed sense of urgency, reiterates its previous calls to all concerned parties to resolve the conflict in Syria through dialogue and negotiations.
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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, and microfinance.
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 (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at USD 66 million.
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