18 July 2014 | Issue No. 10
Due to the dramatic escalation in violence over the past ten days and the massive assault on Gaza, UNRWA has declared an emergency in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. The priority for the Agency is its emergency operations, providing assistance to those who have been displaced and sought shelter in UNRWA schools, while attempting to continue regular operations. Urgent funding needs persist and are increasing.
Past 24 hours: The situation over the past 24 hours can only be described as devastating for women, men and children in Gaza. Shortly after an agreed five-hour UN brokered "humanitarian pause” in the conflict, which concluded at 15:00 on 17 July, violence between Hamas and Israel escalated dramatically as rocket fire intensified almost instantly after the end of the “pause”. This dashed any hopes of an immediate long-term cessation of hostilities and has brought more despair to communities throughout Gaza.
During the “pause” the streets of Gaza were busy, banks were open and people took the opportunity to stock up on food and other supplies. Health clinics saw a dramatic increase in patients who felt safe enough to venture outside their homes. UNRWA health clinic visits increased from 8,891 on Wednesday, to 13,270 on 17 July. By 15:00 the streets of Gaza were again quiet and empty.
As bombardments commenced in the late afternoon and continued into the evening, the situation went from bad to worse when Israel implemented a ground incursion in the north and south-east of the Gaza Strip. Reportedly, the overnight ground incursion lasted until 08:00 when Israeli troops in the north receded, whilst activities in Khan Younis were still ongoing at that time.
Sources indicate that the ground incursion is the most intense Gaza has experienced since the conflict that ended in January 2009, when there was a massive loss of life and widespread alleged targeting of civilian infrastructure, including mosques, houses, schools and medical facilities. The 2008/9 conflict is considered to be the largest and deadliest military operation in Gaza since 1967.
UNRWA’s emergency operations have significantly expanded over the past 24 hours, predominately in response to the displacement of more distraught Gazans. 30,000 people are now sheltering in 29 designated emergency shelters in three of five areas of the Gaza Strip. In addition, several UNRWA installations are operating as places of temporary refuge, providing some level of protection for internally displaced persons. By 08:00 there were a total of 40 shelters and temporary refuges in Gaza. It is expected that additional emergency shelters will be opened throughout the day.
The practice of targeting the homes of alleged militants over the past ten days has resulted in damage or destruction of many refugee families’ homes. Many have taken shelter with relatives or neighbours. The organization is also working through the cluster system to provide non food item baskets to a limited number of needy families. Beneficiaries and basket items will be selected after the completion of a damage and needs assessment, which is already underway.
UNRWA has also decided to accelerate its Emergency Appeal food distribution, to ease the burden the current escalation of violence has placed on refugees. Originally scheduled to begin on 3 August, the Agency has worked hard to prepare the distribution so it can begin on 23 July. Distribution information for beneficiaries will be circulated using the regular process.
According to the Protection Cluster, there were 34 deaths yesterday, including two women, and eight children – six boys and two girls. Reportedly, a total of 261 fatalities have been recorded since 8 July, including at least 33 women and 55 children. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports at least 1,800 injuries during the same time period.
Reportedly, 784 missiles and other projectile were fired via air, land and sea by Israel to the Gaza Strip. 239 rockets and mortars were fired towards Israel.
A total of 64 UNRWA installations have been damaged since 1 June, 2014.
In the past 24 hours, 3 UNRWA installations were damaged – one Health Centre in the Middle Area, one RSSP office and one Microfinance office.
UNRWA has launched an emergency flash appeal for US$ 60 million to respond to the urgent and pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the thousands who have already fled their homes to seek safety in UNRWA facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psychosocial needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities. The emergency response phase is expected to last for one month, and the early recovery a further three to six months. More information on the appeal can be found by here.