Gaza Situation Report 24

01 August 2014
© Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA Archives

1 August 2014 | Issue No. 24

Update 15:00hrs

  • The ceasefire failed to last the morning. Details to follow in tomorrow’s update.

Highlights

  • UNRWA’s Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl visited the Gaza Strip for three days to assess the situation on the ground and to meet with UNRWA staff who are providing a humanitarian lifeline to the people of Gaza under the most difficult circumstances. He visited UNRWA installations and the pediatric ward at the main hospital in Gaza City and witnessed the suffering inflicted upon Palestinians. He also briefed the UN Security Council on Gaza. 
  • A 72 hour ceasefire starting on 1 August at 08:00 has been announced. If the ceasefire lasts, UNRWA is hoping to be able to undertake a preliminary assessment in the 3km ‘buffer zone’ instituted by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), which encompasses roughly 43 percent of the entire Gaza Strip. This area is under effective control of the IDF and not accessible to UNRWA staff. Coordination with the IDF is required to access the area to get an understanding of the damage incurred, for example to UNRWA schools. 
  • The number of IDPs in UNRWA schools continues to rise and has reached almost 240,000. It is estimated that a total of 460,000 people – that is one quarter of the Gaza population – are displaced. The precise number is unknown as those not sheltered in UNRWA schools and government institutions are staying with families and friends. According to very preliminary assessments, almost 60,000 people have no home to go back to, and the number of homes with severe damage incurred is unknown. With entire neighborhoods flattened, the damage is far more severe than from the 2008/09 conflict. UNRWA is expecting that the Agency will have to cater for the daily emergency needs of a large displaced population for a prolonged period of time, including the daily supply of water, food, hygiene and cleaning items. Even if a permanent ceasefire was reached, it will be unfeasible to reconstruct the Gaza Strip under the current access regime imposed by the Government of Israel. There is no construction material available on the local market, making it impossible to repair or build new homes for the displaced population. 
  • According to UN information, 1,373 Palestinians were killed to date. This figure has risen by 99 compared to that reported in the previous report. According to information from the UN Protection Cluster, 863 are civilians (almost 63 per cent) and 181 are believed to be militants. The status of a the remaining 329 people killed is still undetermined. According to the Ministry of Health, the number of wounded has reached 8,400.  

General

Past 24 hours: Hostilities continued over the past 24 hours. In his briefing to the UN Security Council, UNRWA’s Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl highlighted the human impact of the war: “I have borne witness to the tragic situation that has unfolded and been seen so graphically on TV screens across the globe. I have seen extensive damage done to whole neighborhoods and essential infrastructure. I have in particular this morning seen the catastrophic human cost of this war, at the pediatric ward in the main hospital in Gaza, with broken bodies that are the real – and unacceptable – consequence of an armed conflict waged with excessive - and at times disproportionate - force in densely populated urban settings. Among the many other children lying in the rooms and corridors was 5 month-old Yussuf who has very barely and not yet definitively survived the shelling of the UNRWA school building yesterday in Jabalya. Like many of you around the table I have children of my own and what I saw today – the terrible wounds - devastated me. I refer to young Yussuf because I have always refused anonymity in death and injury. Too often reports from war zones refer to lists of numbers. The Palestinian children I saw today are not statistics, and behind every death and injury there is a story and a destiny to be respected.” The full statement can be found here.

Whilst UNRWA is struggling every single day to provide water to the shelters, regular households reportedly have no access to water as there is no electricity to pump the water and some areas are completely cut off from the network. The repair of the Gaza Power Plant – struck on 29 July – will supposedly take up to a year. Only 10 per cent of the estimated electricity demands are currently met through Israeli and Egyptian feeder lines, as some lines are damaged and not operational. Gaza City receives 2 hours of electricity per day and the Middle Area doesn’t have any electricity at all.

UNRWA Response

  • UNRWA is now providing shelter to 239,270 IDPs in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. There are currently 86 designated emergency shelters. It was reported that displaced Gazans move from family and friends to UNRWA emergency shelters as their hosts can no longer provide a temporary home over this prolonged period of time.
  • UNRWA maintenance staff was out in all areas to install showers in the toilets of the UNRWA schools that serve as emergency shelters. Maintenance staff also continued to undertake critical repair works in shelters, such as fixing water storage tanks and repairing the electricity. Whilst the showers somewhat improve personal hygiene, the situation in the overcrowded schools is becoming increasingly tense. Whilst the average number of IDPs per school is almost 2,800, one school in Jabalia still shelters over 9,400 people. Fights over water between families were reported on multiple occasions. Also of concern is that on the way to deliver non-food items (NFI) to a school in Jabalia, two UNRWA contractor trucks were attacked. The drivers were beaten and the full load of NFI – which included hygiene kits, blankets, medication and diapers for the displaced – were stolen.
  • The ongoing conflict also presents a major concern regarding the risk of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), especially to children. Since yesterday, leaflets explaining the risks of UXO were delivered to shelters together with the daily food rations. UNRWA TV is also screening clips to raise awareness about UXO. 
  • Over the reporting period, UNRWA delivered 29 truckloads of NFIs (mattresses, blankets, health kits, diapers) and non-potable water (90,000 liters) to UNRWA emergency shelters, as well as 72 truckloads of food in partnership with WFP (tuna, bread, vegetables, cheese, milk, meat). In addition to UNRWA trucks supplying water to shelters, the Agency is also partnering with local organizations to secure the provision of potable and non-potable water. Despite tremendous efforts undertaken, it is estimated that the current provision of water is less than 3 liters per person per day for IDPs living in the shelters. Tap water in Gaza – if provided – is unfit for human consumption.
  • UNRWA’s food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 2,204 families through 9 out of 12 distribution centres. 
  • Seven out of 21 health centers remain closed, and four health centers were partially operating. More than half of the health staff were able to report to work, serving 14,120 patients. There is a noticeable increase in patients from UNRWA shelters seeking medical treatment in UNRWA health centers. As previously reported, there are growing concerns over an outbreak of communicable diseases, for example through unsafe food items sold outside the shelters, such as non refrigerated meat. UNRWA health staff are working with the shelter managers to raise awareness about food-related health risks and personal hygiene. UNRWA is also partnering with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society which served three shelters with mobile clinics.
  • UNRWA also continued to arrange for the supply of fuel for UNRWA cars and generators in the schools, and provided the logistics to supply fuel to municipalities as well as selected water and sanitation facilities. 
  • On 31 July, 190 UNRWA sanitation laborers and 227 laborers hired under the Agency’s Job Creation Programme reported to work, removing an estimated 362 tonnes of solid waste. No waste can be collected in Maghazi and Bureij Camps, as this lies within the IDF controlled area. 

Summary of Major Incidents

Reportedly, there were 75 rockets and 146 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 114 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza in addition to 40 navy shells. 1,235 tank shells were fired from the border area in to populated areas. Reportedly, 35 houses were bombarded.

UNRWA Installations

Five additional UNRWA installations were reported damaged during this period, four schools and one distribution center. 

An estimated 111 UNRWA installations have been damaged since 1 June, 2014, many of them on multiple occasions. UNRWA is still to verify this number when the security situation allows.

Funding Needs

UNRWA has launched the second revision of its emergency flash appeal. The Agency now requires a total of US$ 187.6 million in order to provide emergency assistance for a revised scenario of up to 250,000 people displaced for a period of up to eight weeks.  

More information on the revised appeal can be found by here.

Crossings

  • Rafah crossing was open for foreign passport holders and wounded Palestinians. 
  • Erez was closed. 
  • Kerem Shalom crossing was open.

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