1 September - 8 September 2015 | Issue 109
The interest of foreign delegations to visit and follow up on humanitarian projects supported by their governments in Gaza remains high. A delegation from the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) visited Gaza on 1 September, 2015 when UNRWA representatives organized a visit to a refugee family living in the heavily destroyed neighbourhood of Shujaiya, in eastern Gaza; the family had received UNRWA shelter assistance funded through BMZ and the German delegation heard about their experience and background. During the reporting week, a delegation from the Representative Office of Japan in Ramallah also came to Gaza to visit a Japanese-funded project in an UNRWA Health Centre in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Furthermore, from 7 to 9 September UNRWA received a delegation from the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) who met with UNRWA staff and visited some of the projects SFD funds, including the construction site of Al Azahar university in Gaza city (implementation of which is supervised by UNRWA), a completed UNRWA Health Centre in Rafah and the Rafah Re-housing Project, now in its last and third construction phase. This project is UNRWA’s largest refugee rehousing project and phase three will include 230 houses accommodating 1,310 Palestine refugees. Since commencement, the project has provided more than 1,700 housing units for some 10,000 refugees. The project is set for completion in March 2016. Through its three phases the construction project has created more than 160,000 working days in the Gaza Strip for some 10,000 labourers.
A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) from July 2015, titled UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory has gained significant media attention. In the report, UNCTAD describes the disillusioning reality of a society suffering from the consequences of decades-long occupation, isolation and repeated armed violence. The report states that socio-economic conditions in Gaza are at their lowest point since 1967 due to years of blockade and three conflicts within six years, with full-scale military operations. The prospects for the remainder of 2015 remain bleak, according to the report. Insufficient donor support is further undermined by the occupation yet “no amount of aid would have been sufficient to put any economy on a path of sustainable development under conditions of frequent military strikes and destruction of infrastructure,” the report states. The Israeli military operations and blockade have created a process in Gaza in which development is “not merely hindered, but reversed.” Referring to the study conducted by the UN in 2012, in which UNRWA participated, titled Gaza in 2020: A liveable place? - the report notes that three years ago the UN warned that “herculean efforts” would be required for Gaza to be a liveable place; yet “instead of such efforts, the tragedy in Gaza has deteriorated and its de-development was accelerated by destruction in 2014.” The report also warns of a severe housing and water crisis, both of which could potentially lead to a serious health crisis.
Operational environment: The environment in Gaza was becoming more difficult and tense over the past few weeks. The UNRWA Safety and Security Division (UNSSD) registered in its monthly report for August 2015 a total of 28 crime incidents in Gaza, of which 14 are reported to be family disputes. Furthermore, UNSSD reported 82 demonstrations in August, with 46 of them held against UN agencies.
On 5 September, an alleged dispute between supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian politician Mohammad Dahlan resulted in 10 injuries and the arrest of several persons by the police.
On 7 September a dispute between a client and a shop owner in Gaza city resulted in the owner firing shots from his pistol. No injuries were reported.
On 7 September an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) was found in an agricultural area in central Gaza; the Ordnance Disposal Police defused it.
Repeated protests continued during the reporting week, with protestors demonstrating against UNRWA’s newly launched Shelter Cash for Work pilot project or in solidarity of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails
62-year old Palestine refugee Kana’an Abu Libda, a father of seven, used to live in the “Brazil” refugee camp in Rafah, southern Gaza. However, in 2003 his house, together with many others in the camp, was demolished by Israeli forces and his life was turned upside down.
After losing their home, the family received rental subsidy payments through UNRWA to be able to rent a temporary shelter. However, “constantly moving from one house to another was very difficult because we never felt that a house was really ours; we were not able to change or fix things or give it our own touch,” Kana’an explained.
After more than 10 years living in temporary accommodation, in June 2014 the Abu Libda family received a housing unit in phase two of the Rafah Rehousing Project. “We felt such relief when we received the shelter; after a long time we were finally able to settle down again in a house that is just for us,” Kana’an said satisfied.
The Abu Libda family’s house in the Rehousing Project consists of three floors, each with two rooms. The space is very tight, since his married sons, their wives and their children, also lived in the housing unit. However, despite the difficulties, Kana’an is very thankful for the new home: “The house is very clean, there is an automatic water generator and the electricity lines are very good; we also have a refrigerator, a washing machine and a cooking stove.” And he added: “We do appreciate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for funding this project that helps people like me to keep our dignity in these difficult times; and we also see what an important role UNRWA plays in supervising, implementing and following up on such projects.”
After more than ten years of searching, hoping and moving from one place to the other, the Abu Libda family has finally found a real home again.
Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the security fence or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 1 September Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian who allegedly illegally tried to cross into Israel from southern Gaza. On 2 September, Israeli troops fired towards and arrested a Palestinian in northern Gaza who illegally tried to cross into Israel. The person was injured. On the same day, two Palestinian families of 11 persons (two men, two women, seven children) tried to enter into Israel from southern Gaza; they were arrested by Israeli troops. On 3 September, Israeli forces fired towards a group of Palestinian young people who were approaching the security fence; an 11-year old child was injured. On 6 September, Israeli troops arrested two Palestinians who allegedly illegally tried to cross into Israel from central Gaza.
On 1 September, militants fired two rockets towards Israel; the rockets dropped short. On 4 September, militants fired six test rockets towards the sea.
On 2 September, stray bullets fired from northern Gaza hit three Israeli houses in the settlment of Nativ Haasara located near the security fence with Gaza. On 3 September, the Israeli air force fired two missiles targeting a Hamas training site in northern Gaza. On the same day, two Israeli tanks and three bulldozers entered approximately 250 metres into central Gaza and conducted a clearing and excavation operation.
On 8 September four bulldozers entered approximately 50 meters into central Gaza and Israeli troops conducted a clearing and excavation operation.
In total, for the month of August the UNRWA Safety and Security Division (UNSSD) reported 24 security fence fire incidents, 2 air strikes by the Israeli army, 25 rocket launches, and 18 Israeli naval fire incidents
Thanks to generous donors, UNRWA has overcome its immediate and most serious financial crisis and was able to partially bridge the US$ 101 million deficit in its General Fund; to date, approximately US$ 78.9 million has been confirmed by donors.
In response to the unprecedented needs faced by the Palestine refugees, and the continuous financial shortages and unstable financial footing of the Agency, UNRWA is currently exploring options for additional funding, but is also implementing a series of austerity measures aimed at decreasing costs where possible while preserving essential services to refugees.
US$ 227 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which an estimated US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 493 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking US$ 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including US$ 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, US$ 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and US$ 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.
Kerem Shalom was open from 1 to 3 and 6 to 8 September. It was closed on 4 and 5 September.