Press Releases

    9 April 2002


    GAZA, 7 April (UNRWA) -- Peter Hansen, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), has called on the Israeli military to cease its bloody assault on Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank.

    Mr Hansen said: "The Israeli Defence Force has made a hellish battleground among the civilians in the Balata and Jenin refugee camps. We are getting reports of pure horror -– that helicopters are strafing civilian residential areas; that systematic shelling by tanks has created hundreds of wounded; that bulldozers are razing refugee homes to the ground; and that food and medicine will soon run out. In the name of human decency, the Israeli military must allow our ambulances safe passage to help evacuate the wounded and deliver emergency supplies of medicines and food."

    "Israel is a signatory to international conventions that protect non-combatants in times of conflict. Those conventions are worthless if they are not adhered to precisely at times of the greatest bloodletting. The world is watching and Israel needs to end this pitiless assault on civilian refugee camps."

    UNRWA’s ambulances and food trucks have been repeatedly refused access to the West Bank camps over the past three days, but stand ready to move immediately the moment that the Israeli military can guarantee that they will not come under fire from its troops. Bodies are piling up in the corridors of Jenin hospital, where 30 people are reported to have died in the last 36 hours, the operating theatre there has run out of oxygen, and medicines are about to run out.

    Richard Cook, director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank said: "A humanitarian disaster is in the making in the West Bank camps. There has been an alarming loss of life. The UNRWA must have, without delay, safe access to the camps to carry out its humanitarian mission."

    For more information, contact: in Gaza: Paul McCann on 059 428 008 or Ros Young on 059 428 015; in Jerusalem: Sami Mshasha on 050 317 094.

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