Gaza situation report, 21 November

21 November 2012

21 November 2012 at 16:00
Gaza

Situational overview

For the eighth consecutive day, intensive Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes, heavy tank shelling and Israeli navy fire are causing destruction and devastation. Massive explosions have been heard throughout the Gaza Strip during the most intense round of attacks since the beginning of the military escalation last Wednesday. The number of civilian casualties continues to rise.

Read more: Emergency in Gaza

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) ground operation has not occurred, as high-level political meetings, which included the UN Secretary General and representatives of Western and Arab countries, convened in Jerusalem and Cairo in an effort to achieve a ceasefire. Accompanying the Secretary General in Ramallah was the UNRWA Commissioner-General, who provided a first-hand account of the conditions facing Palestinians in Gaza.

Many families are gathering in overcrowded apartments located in areas that they hope are less likely to be targeted. However, as shelling of residential building persists, the population grows weary and evermore fearful.

An IAF air strike overnight destroyed a major bridge of the Beach Road that is a main link between North-Central and South Gaza. Media offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press have also been damaged. Additionally, the Israeli attacks continue to target government buildings and infrastructure, police stations, tunnels, and mosques.

Leaflets dropped in border areas and parts of Gaza City advised the civilian population to leave their houses immediately for their own safety. UNRWA responded immediately by opening schools to provide shelter for those seeking safety.

Rocket firing towards Israel has intensified, with Hamas threatening that the worst is yet to come if the Israeli attacks continue.

Streets remained largely deserted. People only move if absolutely necessary.

Some food stores, fruit and vegetable markets, and pharmacies remain open. Prices are closely monitored by the local authorities and have remained unchanged. Shortages in supplies are expected following extended closure of the commercial crossing, Kerem Shalom.

Very heavy IAF bombardment of the tunnel area, resulting in some catching fire, was reported overnight. The remaining tunnels, including those used for fuel, have been disrupted today.

The Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby visited Gaza on Tuesday afternoon; he was accompanied by a delegation of foreign ministers from Arab countries.

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 (USD):

  • Food assistance: 6 million
  • Cash assistance: 2 million
  • Non-food items: 1 million
  • Urgent repair of installations and refugee shelters: 1.5 million
  • Medical supplies: 400,000
  • Job creation programme support to WHO: 210,000
  • Fuel (municipalities, hospitals): 1.5 million
  • Waste and rubble removal: 100,000
  • Total: 12.71 million

Read today‘s letter from UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi on urgent funding needs.

Security situation

The security situation in Gaza has further deteriorated as military activities increased. Intensive and sustained air bombardment, navy and tank shelling from Israel across the Gaza Strip, and large-scale rocket and mortar fire into Israeli territory, are causing Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties.

UNRWA’s response

Yesterday afternoon, the IDF dropped leaflets in Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, Jabalia, Tel El Hawa, Zaitoun, Shejaya, Bureij, Johr Eddik and Valley Gaza, prompting large displacement among the population. UNRWA received an increased number of displaced people in its schools in Gaza, Jabalia and Bureij, causing it to activate emergency response teams in those three locations. As of today, 14 UNRWA schools are serving as emergency shelters (four in the North, nine in Gaza, and one in the Middle Area). UNRWA is currently sheltering and assisting more than 10,000 individuals. The World Food Programme distributed food (canned fish, date bars, and fresh bread) and UNRWA distributed non-food items (mattresses, blankets and hygiene kits).

Upon entry at the school, all individuals seeking shelter are advised that no weapons are permitted and they are searched. Additionally, the Palestinian civilian community is well aware that in Gaza, where there is no completely safe place, UNRWA schools provide some protection. The displaced community is assisting UNRWA staff to ensure that persons with weapons do not enter or reside in the shelters, as they understand it will jeopardise their own safety. During the registration process, UNRWA staff collect information about each family member, including sex, age, and any specific needs – such as being a child separated from their parents or having specific health needs. Agency staff also record the origin of the family before displacement as well as the condition of the family’s house at the time they left it. The family receives a copy of the form – which serves as a makeshift shelter registration card – and ensures they can access any distributions provided at the shelter. UNRWA will also gather all the information and process it in order to identify the unique characteristics of the population at each shelter, to ensure specific health and protection services are provided to residents, and to record conditions in their communities of origin. GPS co-ordinates of UNRWA installations are regularly being communicated to the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

External co-ordination and co-operation with the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) are ongoing. In general, while UNRWA is primarily assisting Palestine refugees as much as possible, other actors are primarily assisting the remaining population in need. Funding is urgently needed to cover the distribution of emergency food due to the current escalation.

UNRWA is supporting other humanitarian organisations in Gaza. Today, UNRWA donated 1800 litres of fuel to cover the monthly requirement of the Central Blood Bank Society, a humanitarian charitable society providing safe and free-of-charge blood to the injured in Gaza. UNRWA has also received requests from UNICEF and UNDP for assistance in the purchase and delivery of emergency fuel to support their operations in Gaza.

Despite the closure of Kerem Shalom, UNRWA received one truckload through the Erez crossing today, consisting of nine pallets of medical supplies for use in the health centres.

The donation of medical supplies to the World Health Organization (WHO) was delivered today, with a view to support their current operations in caring for the injured. Such prompt action was taken by the Agency to respond to urgent humanitarian needs; UNRWA asks that donors will come through with USD 400,000 to replenish UNRWA’s own stocks. UNRWA is seeking urgent funding to be able to assist WHO with the provision of job creation programme staff who can support health care professionals in the hospitals managing the surge of patients as a result of the ongoing violence.

Nineteen UNRWA health centres continued to operate today. Two health centres remained closed due to their close proximity to the Israeli border. The number of patients reporting to our health centres today was lower than on other days (around 10,000 patients), as it remains dangerous for people to move about, and most of the injured seek care from hospitals. Due to the displacement of the population, health centres in Gaza City and Khan Younis have received a higher number of staff and patients than on normal days.

All 12 food distribution centres across Gaza continued to distribute food assistance today.

Today, due to the security situation, sanitation workers started their operations later than usual, therefore covering a smaller area within the camps (about 75 per cent). Sanitation labourers are risking their lives to mitigate any public health concerns in the camps.

The maintenance team continued to ensure that UNRWA installations are fit for operations by making repairs in two of the school shelters in Jabalia; the team also assessed five schools in Rafah to ensure they can be opened as shelters if the need arises.

All UNRWA water wells continued to operate today. UNRWA administers a total of 11 water wells inside the refugee camps, providing for 20 per cent of water consumption in the camps. The municipalities provide for the remaining water consumption. In Jabalia Camp, the UNRWA water wells are the only source of potable water for refugees.

UNRWA staff continue to demonstrate their resilience and commitment under such difficult conditions.

UNRWA casualties

No casualties with an UNRWA connection were reported.

UNRWA installations

UNRWA installations continue to suffer collateral damage from the continued violence.

  • Update to Gaza Situation Report of 17 November 2012 relating to the air strike at the port of Gaza City: additional collateral window damage to a building used by UN International staff has been reported.
  • Update to Gaza Situation Report of 18 November 2012 relating to Jabalia Distribution Centre: in addition to major facility damage, four UNRWA vehicles (two tractors, one bulldozer and one minibus) were damaged.
  • On 21 November 2012 at 12:00, an Israeli air strike to a nearby building caused minor window damage to Nuseirat Elementary Co-ed School B and D.

Crossings

  • Rafah crossing is open per normal schedule. On 20 November, 377 people arrived into Gaza, 523 crossed into Egypt, and 31 were denied travel.
  • Kerem Shalom crossing was closed today.
  • Erez crossing was open. In addition to the crossing of people, UNRWA received one truckload of medical supplies through Erez.

How you can help

To support UNRWA’s emergency operation in Gaza you can donate online at www.unrwa.org/gaza. To receive further information on how you or your organisation can help, send a message to partnerships@unrwa.org.

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$ 56 million.

For more information, please contact:

Gaza Emergency 1
US$ 30 GIVES COUNSELLING TO A TRAUMATISED CHILD