12 July 2014 | Issue No. 4
Due to the dramatic escalation in violence over the past few days and the massive assault on Gaza, UNRWA has declared an emergency in all five areas of the Gaza Strip. It is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to mount an emergency response should that become necessary. The priority for the Agency at this time continues to be its regular operations, however, urgent funding needs persist.
Past 24 hours: Communities in Gaza continue to suffer as heavy airstrikes, death, injuries and damage to infrastructure continues to take its toll on everyday life. The human impact was further exacerbated over the past 24 hours when public services were hit particularly hard. Electricity was disconnected in major areas of Gaza City and an electricity line from Egypt to Rafah was damaged three times in the past 48 hours. It was reportedly repaired early evening yesterday, only to be struck again shortly after. Early morning reports indicate that 75 per cent of Gaza City is without power, after two of the three functioning lines bringing power from Israel were damaged by airstrikes.
The Gaza Strip is supplied with electricity from three sources: purchases from Israel (120 megawatts, MW) and from Egypt (28 MW), and production by the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) (currently 60 MW). Even prior to the recent escalation in violence, this supply was meeting just 46 per cent of the estimated demand. This amounts to an average of rolling power outages of up to 12 hours per day.
The impact of damaged electricity lines should not be under estimated. The chronic electricity deficit already affecting Gaza over the past few years has disrupted the delivery of basic services - including water supply, waste management and health - and undermined already vulnerable livelihoods and living conditions. UNRWA has received USD 2.5 million from the Islamic Development Bank to provide fuel to critical installations, a need which will only become more urgent if the situation in Gaza further deteriorates.
As reported by OCHA, other public services have also been badly affected – water and sewage infrastructure in eight locations have sustained damage so far. This has affected more than 350,000 Gazans.
The alarming situation in the Gaza Strip has attracted new international concern, particularly regarding the alleged Israeli targeting of civilians, as the death toll continues to climb. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an investigation into Israeli air strikes on Gaza, on the grounds that the targeting of Palestinian homes – resulting in a high death toll among civilians, including many children – could violate international law.
Over the past 24 hours, 25 deaths and 100 injuries have been reported. Amongst the dead are three woman and three children – one girl and two boys. At least 28 children have been killed since Tuesday, 8 July, which is almost a quarter of the 130 recorded fatalities. It is reported that children are believed to constitute such a high proportion of the dead partly because they are often the most afraid to leave their homes whilst their neighbourhoods are being bombed.
To date, only limited displacement has taken place and no UNRWA emergency shelters have yet been formally opened at this stage, but some nearby residents continue to seek the temporary, relative security of UNRWA installations. Four people took shelter in an UNRWA school in Khan Younis, and a family used a school in Nuseirat as temporary shelters on the evening of 11 July.
UNRWA’s preparedness levels are high but history shows that the organization can expect to shelter up to 50,000 displaced Gazans in its schools if a ground invasion occurs. Yet, the organisation holds NFI stock for less than 35,000, a legacy of scarce financial resources that did not allow UNRWA to replenish contingency supplies after the devastating flooding in December, 2013.
Reportedly, 361 missiles were fired by Israel to the Gaza Strip. 231 rockets and were fired towards Israel. The Israeli navy fired 190 shells at targets in Gaza, and 56 houses in Gaza were bombarded by Israel. IDF positioned at the border fired 45 tank shells.
There were 25 deaths and 100 injuries reported. This takes the reported total death toll since Tuesday, to 130, with more than 680 injured. Reports indicate that at least 28 children have been killed over this time period.
A total of 31 UNRWA installations have been damaged since Tuesday, 8 July.
In the past 24 hours, nine UNRWA schools were damaged - in Gaza City, Middle Area, North Area, Khan Younis and Rafah.
A concrete factory in east Gaza City was also damaged, which regularly supplies UNRWA contracted construction projects.
Although operations for UNRWA continue in all five Areas, there is an urgent need for funding to cover the $22 million Emergency Appeal shortfall already projected by the Agency. Currently, the most urgent funding needs include funding to continue the food assistance programme and additional resources to procure additional non-food items ($1 million) and fuel for critical installations ($2.5 million).