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UNICEF, UNRWA condemn violence in Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp

March 1, 2017 at 8:47 pm

Smoke rises within the clashes between Fatah movement members and some Palestinian Islamic groups at Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon on 28 February 2017 [Ratib Al Safadi – Anadolu Agency]

The Lebanon representative of UNICEF and the director of UNRWA in the country today released a joint statement condemning the recent armed violence in the Ain Al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

Two Palestinian youths were killed in clashes in the camp yesterday while at least eight others were injured – including a pregnant woman.

The statement said that the two groups were “deeply concerned” that ongoing violence would result in further civilian casualties, including children, noting that an UNRWA employee was injured in the violence.

Clashes began on Monday evening when a bomb detonated in front of a call centre inside the camp, breaking a “cautious calm” that had prevailed after Palestinian factions reached a ceasefire agreement on Sunday night to halt violent clashes that erupted over the weekend.

“As a result of the violence, most of the education, health and other services in the camp have been suspended. In addition, three United Nations schools have also been entered and used by armed actors in breach of the inviolability of UN premises and in violation of children’s’ rights under international law,” the statement said.

UNICEF and UNRWA estimated that the violence has prevented some 5,200 UNRWA students “from enjoying their right to education”.

The groups called on all involved in the violence to “respect the sanctity of human life and to ensure the protection of Palestine refugees and other residents of the camp” and to cease hostilities.

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported that a ceasefire agreement was brokered during a meeting between PLO factions and nationalist and Islamist forces at the Palestinian embassy yesterday.

The largest and most crowded refugee camp in Lebanon, Ain Al-Hilweh is home to some 54,116 registered refugees who fled their villages during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, according to the UN.

However, the population has significantly increased since 2011 as a result of the Syrian war, as Palestinians have been displaced a second time from refugee camps across Syria, with development non profit organisation Anera estimating the camp’s population to be closer to 120,000.