27 July 2014 | Issue No. 19
On 7 July UNRWA declared an emergency in all five areas of the Gaza Strip in response to escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. Since then, civilian displacement and fatalities have risen sharply. The total number of Palestinian deaths reported by the Protection Cluster currently stands at 930 and the number of wounded, as reported by the Ministry of Health has reached 6,030. The number of displaced people taking refuge in UNRWA shelters is now more than triple the peak number from the 2008/9 conflict, and exceeds 167,269 in 83 schools. UNRWA has launched an emergency flash appeal for US$ 115 million to respond to the urgent and pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.
Past 24 hours: People in Gaza had a temporary reprieve from ongoing hostilities during this reporting period. A 12- hour humanitarian pause, starting from 08:00 on 26 July, allowed people to stock up on food and essential supplies; rescue crews to retrieve the dead; and humanitarian assistance to be delivered in previously inaccessible locations. People could once again be seen on Gaza streets as shops, markets and banks opened. Many of the IDPs taking refuge in UNRWA shelters took the opportunity to return to their homes to survey damage and collect clothing and other items from their homes, where possible. Some found their homes destroyed and many found scenes of massive destruction; many others were unable to visit their homes due to ongoing access restrictions imposed in the 3km ‘buffer zone’. Most IDPs returned to the shelters in the evening. The ceasefire was then extended unilaterally by Israel to midnight local time, but was not fully upheld, with reports of rockets being fired towards Israel. This morning, despite a reduction in the fighting, no lasting ceasefire was in place.
During the ceasefire, high numbers of Palestinian dead were reported to have been retrieved from the rubble of destroyed buildings. The Palestinian death toll, according to data from the protection cluster, has now reached 930 with the majority of those reported to be civilians. This includes 21 Palestinians reported as killed during this period, including 1 child. Those killed during this conflict tragically include 20 members of one family, including eleven children, reported by OCHA using protection cluster data, as killed in one airstrike early on 26 July before the ceasefire came into effect. According to Ministry of Health figures, 6,030 Palestinians have been injured in the current conflict.
Yesterday’s ceasefire allowed for humanitarian assistance to be delivered to areas previously inaccessible due to heightened insecurity and movement restrictions in a 3km Israeli imposed ‘buffer zone’. Solid waste could be removed from Maghazi and Bureij for the first time since 21 July and UNRWA was able to provide tanked water to a shelter in Maghazi for the first time in five days. However, some areas of Gaza remained inaccessible despite the ceasefire. UNRWA was still unable to access a number of warehouses containing vital supplies of food and non food items (NFIs), including a main warehouse in the east of Gaza City containing goods including basic commodities, engineering equipment, medicines and education materials.
Access to food is becoming an increasing issue of concern in Gaza. Some areas are reporting large crowds outside of bakeries and that many items are no longer available on the local market. An UNRWA initial rapid assessment has found little change in the price of staple items on the local market (bread, flower, sugar and oil), except for rice which now costs five percent more. The stability in staple food prices can likely be attributed to the continuing distribution of UNRWA regular emergency food rations to half the population of the Gaza Strip, which is reducing pressure on local markets, as well as to the extremely low local demand (impossibility or difficulty to withdraw salaries). However, the initial rapid assessment found that the prices of dairy goods and meat are facing significant increases in price over the last month (by an average of 4.25%), while the prices of vegetables have skyrocketed during this period (by an average of 77%). This can be explained largely by the inaccessibility of agricultural areas and mounting pressure on supplies as UNRWA provides for massive numbers of IDPs in its designated emergency shelters.
UNRWA, with support from the WFP, distributes an average of 200 metric tonnes of food per day to IDPs taking refuge in UNRWA shelters, including bread, canned meat, canned tuna, milk, biscuits, cream cheese and fresh vegetables (tomato and cucumber). This is in addition to the regular distribution of emergency food to over 830,000 beneficiaries. Due to the incredibly difficult situation that people in Gaza are facing, UNRWA has decided to extend regular food distribution to the Eid holiday and Saturdays, when Distribution Centers would normally be closed. Since this distribution round commenced, the daily number of beneficiaries collecting food rations at UNRWA Distribution Centers has been more than double regular numbers, as people are desperate to receive rations as early as possible. Regular food distribution is also being put under increased pressure by the closure of UNRWA Distribution Centers in Deir El Baleh, Toffah, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis East due to heightened insecurity
On 26 July, 446 Sanitation Laborers reported to work, taking advantage of the ceasefire to remove an estimated 313 tonnes of solid waste from all five areas of the Gaza Strip.
Reportedly there were 55 rockets and 3 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 9 missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 123 tank shells. Reportedly, 3 houses were bombarded.
UNRWA is deeply saddened to report that a fourth UNRWA staff member was killed early yesterday morning.
A total of 94 UNRWA installations have been damaged since 1 June, 2014, many of them on multiple occasions.
In the past 24 hours, one UNRWA School was damaged in Beit Hanoun.
UNRWA has launched an emergency flash appeal for US$ 115 million to provide emergency assistance to 150,000 people through its shelters- where food, NFI and psychosocial support are provided- and through health and social service facilities available to those not taking refuge in UNRWA shelters. This funding will also allow UNRWA to start early recovery activities once hostilities cease.
More information on the appeal can be found here.
Kerem Shalom crossing was closed.