23 March 2013 East Jerusalem
It is with great distress that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has learned of the violent deaths of five Palestine refugee children, one in Dera'a on 15 March and four others in the Damascus area on 19 March. Four of the children reportedly died as a result of the use of heavy weapons.
On 15 March, Mohammad Al-Khateeb (aged 14) was killed by a bullet as he was returning home on foot after buying bread from a bakery in his neighbourhood in Dera'a. On 19 March, Hisham Mahmoud (aged 10) and Farhat Mubarak (aged 11), were killed at the crossroad of Yazour and Safad Streets in Yarmouk, Damascus. They were returning home from classes at a community-run learning centre when an explosive shell detonated nearby, killing them instantly. In a separate incident on the same day, two brothers, Ali Mijel (aged 14) and Abdullah Mijel (aged 15), were killed along with their aunt and cousin when an explosive shell hit their home on Hittin Street in Sbeineh Camp.
UNRWA deplores the deaths of Mohammad Al-Khateeb, Hisham Mahmoud, Farhat Mubarak, Ali Mijel and Abdullah Mijel. The death of these children occurred in the context of escalating armed violence throughout Syria, including in Palestinian camps and residential areas. UNRWA is gravely concerned by a rapidly rising toll of deaths and serious injuries among Palestine refugees in Syria.
The tragic deaths illustrate the devastating effect of the conflict on children, both Syrian and Palestinian. On a daily basis, many people, including children, are killed, maimed, displaced and deeply traumatized as a result of the unrestrained conduct of armed conflict in urban areas. The conflict-related deaths of parents have left many children without the support and nurturing essential for their normal development.
With the utmost urgency, UNRWA reiterates its call for all parties to the conflict in Syria to comply with international humanitarian law, to respect the neutrality of Palestinians and Palestinian camps, and to desist from conducting military operations in civilian areas. All sides are required by international law to protect the lives, rights, safety and dignity of children, both Syrian and Palestinian. UNRWA strongly appeals to the all parties to the conflict to comply with these obligations.
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 five 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 67.2 million.
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