Felipe Sanchez, Director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the West Bank, today issued this statement on Israel’s killings of two youths in a protest at Beitunia last Thursday near Ofer Prison:
I am deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding the recent death of two Palestinian minors, one of them a Palestine refugee. I have observed with great alarm the initial reports surrounding the incident, which indicate that both were unarmed and appeared to pose no direct threat. Given this, I strongly echo the call of UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco in his May 20th briefing to the UN Security Council for a prompt, independent and transparent investigation into these deaths by the Israeli authorities. I would also reiterate the call to the Government of Israel to ensure that its security forces adhere strictly to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), has issued this statement on a disturbing trend in the use of lethal force against Palestinian refugees:
Since the beginning of 2013, UNRWA has observed a sharp increase in the number of Palestine refugees killed and injured during law enforcement operations carried out by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Notably, refugees have been severely affected by the increase in the use of force, evidenced by the large numbers of fatalities and injuries that have occurred in and around the densely populated refugee camps.
In 2013 there were 17 Palestine refugee killed by Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank. There were no refugee fatalities in 2012. Furthermore, UNRWA recorded 486 refugees injured in camps in 2013, compared with 38 in 2012. While there were no refugees injured by live ammunition in 2012, UNRWA documented 51 injuries of refugees by live ammunition in 2013, all of which occurred in or around camps.
Unfortunately UNRWA has observed a continuation of these trends into 2014. To date there have been seven Palestine refugees killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, two of whom were children, with the most recent being on 15 May 2014 (Nakba Day). The numbers of refugees injured in camps has continued to increase with 275 refugees injured in camps in the first four months of 2014, almost a 20 per cent increase over the same period of 2013.
Similarly, this year UNRWA has also observed a sharp increase in refugees injured by live ammunition with at least 43 refugees being injured to date, all but one occurring in or around camps, compared to ten over the same period of 2013.
These figures speak for themselves and tell their own shocking story. Without comment they make the case for investigation and action for which the UN and other parties have called. Our hearts go out to families who have lost loved ones, particularly children. Grief is always poignant, but to grieve in these sorts of circumstances is particularly painful. Children and their right to life deserve particular protection as provided for under international law.