Gaza situation report, 16 November

16 November 2012

16 November 2012 at 15:00
Gaza

Situational overview

The Israeli military operation continues for the second consecutive day. Widespread Israeli air strikes have been taking place for the past 24 hours. Over 60 Israeli Air Force (IAF) raids, with over 100 missiles fired, accompanied by very loud explosions, were reported for the period 01:00hrs - 07:20hrs only. A ground operation has not been launched. UNRWA is ready and prepared should the humanitarian need dictate a response. Militants have continued intensive rocket and mortar firing into southern Israeli territory, including two rockets fired into the area of Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War.

Read more: Emergency in Gaza

The streets in Gaza appear to be almost empty with a very small number of vehicles or people. People are limiting movements to a minimum, and whenever possible also avoid places that have been repeatedly targeted. Shops are mainly closed with the exception of some food stores, and bakeries are crowded with people stocking up on supplies. Waiting time at bakeries is up to one hour. It will become clear tomorrow whether the closure of the shops is linked to the security situation or to the fact that both yesterday and today were official holidays. There is great concern among the population about shortages should the current situation last or get worse.

Police reminded vegetable sellers to keep prices down, as there were reports about some of them using the emergency situation to raise prices. Reports say that the tunnels at the Egyptian border were closed last night. However, large amounts of flour, 200,000 litres of diesel, and 100,000 litres of industrial fuel for the Gaza power plant have come in today through the tunnels for the de facto authority‘s stores.

No large-scale displacement has been reported and there is not yet any need for the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance. So far, displaced people are able to find shelter with friends and family. Displacements are mainly due to damage done to houses and apartments caused by nearby air strikes.

Gaza: Facts and figures

  • 1.2 million refugees
  • 8 refugee camps
  • 12,000 staff
  • 245 schools for 225,000 students
  • 21 health centres
  • 12 food distribution centres for more than 800,000 refugees
  • Living under a tightened land and sea blockade since 2007
  • Shattered local economy

Urgent funding need

  • Food assistance: USD 4.8 million
  • Cash assistance: USD 1.3 million
  • Non-food items: USD 1 million
  • Total: USD 7.1 million

UNRWA‘s response

As the security situation escalates, UNRWA is ready to respond. As in the past, displaced refugees and other civilians in Gaza are likely to seek shelter in UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip. The Agency and its staff are ready to provide assistance as required.

Given the security situation, wherever possible UNRWA health centres will operate as of tomorrow morning. Health teams are ready to provide emergency assistance, including establishing temporary or mobile clinics in the eventuality of large-scale population displacements. UNRWA‘s main pharmacy and health centres have sufficient medicine and vaccinations in stock.

As the largest UN agency in Gaza with the largest number of beneficiaries, UNRWA is hoping to augment its existing supplies of non-food items for distribution to refugees and other civilians as necessary. UNRWA distributes food aid to more than 800,000 refugees in Gaza and is currently in the middle of a food distribution cycle (October to December). The Agency food stocks are therefore plentiful. However, any food that is distributed as an emergency humanitarian response measure to a displaced population will need to be replaced to cover the food needs of the current number of poor Palestine refugees in Gaza.

UNRWA is also currently facing a funding shortfall of USD 4.8 million, which is needed by next week to complete the procurement procedures for the distribution of food aid scheduled to take place from January to March 2013.

Security

The security situation in Gaza remains critical. Widespread air bombardments from Israel across the Gaza Strip and large-scale rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israeli territory is causing Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties. For the first time since the first Gulf War, rockets were fired into the area of Tel Aviv.

A three-hour-long ceasefire was arranged during the visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to Gaza and came into force at 09:00. Only sporadic air strikes and rocket firing were reported during that time. Military activities resumed after 12:00.

Challenges encountered

The Department of Safety and Security and the UN Access team organised an NGO convoy with six expatriate workers to leave Gaza this morning. Once again, the crossing point on the Palestinian side (Arba Arba) was closed by the local authorities. Erez crossing was open until 13:00 and ready to allow the expatriate workers through. Despite the co-ordination efforts, the convoy did not manage to leave Gaza today.

UNRWA casualties

No reported casualties from UNRWA staff in the reporting period, though an UNRWA teacher was killed by an Israeli air strike on 15 November. An eight-year-old UNRWA student, Fares Al Basuni, was killed at his home in Beit Hanoun.

UNRWA installations

  • On 14 November at 21:25, an Israeli air strike hit an open area northeast of Rafah, causing minor damage to Al Naser Health Centre.
  • On 14 November at 17:45, an Israeli air strike hit an open area southwest of Nuseirat Camp, causing minor damage to UNRWA‘s Nuseirat preparatory girls‘ school.
  • On 14 November at 21:15 an Israeli air strike hit an open area northwest of Nuseirat Camp, causing damage to an UNRWA vehicle.
  • On 16 November at 04:05 an Israeli air strike hit an open area, causing collateral damage to the UNRWA‘s Japanese Health Centre in Khan Younis.
  • On 16 November at 05:40 an Israeli air strike targeting a civil administration building, belonging to the Ministry of Interior in Tel El Hawa, southeast of Gaza, caused collateral damage to UNRWA Zaitoun girls‘ school.

Crossings

  • Rafah crossing is open as usual.
  • Kerem Shalom was closed on 15 November due to the security situation. On 16 November, Kerem Shalom was closed as usual.
  • Erez crossing was open until 13:00 for those walking across. However, local authorities in Gaza did not allow expatriate workers to leave Gaza.

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68.2 million.

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