Gaza Situation Report 113

09 October 2015
Suheir al-Khaldi teaches Arabic at the UNRWA Preparatory A School in Nuseirat, central Gaza. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

  29 September  – 6 October  | Issue 113


  • To mark and celebrate the UNESCO-led annual World Teachers’ Day (WTD) on 5 October,  under the international slogan ‘Empowering Teachers, Building Sustainable Societies – Mobilizing for a Roadmap 2030 for Teachers’ UNRWA produced a short documentary film to showcase the role of teachers in society and in providing quality education. The film is entitled “I will never forget you” and features case studies on UNRWA teachers and their former students in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, highlighting the key roles UNRWA teachers play in empowering students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st Century. Recognizing the invaluable contribution and expertise of educators, UNRWA is leading Field-specific events to celebrate WTD. The events will showcase the achievements of UNRWA teachers and of the wider Education Reform, an initiative which has inspired, elevated and transformed the teaching profession and teaching practices inside UNRWA classrooms. “Being well-trained, dedicated, enthusiastic and interactive, our teachers are reshaping the future of our school children. The ways our teachers are working through the reform are being noted beyond UNRWA,” said Caroline Pontefract, Director of Education at UNRWA. The provision of quality education is one of the core pillars of the Agency’s services to Palestine refugees in all five UNRWA fields of operations, including Gaza. This quality education also signifies a “passport to dignity”, as recently stated by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In Gaza, UNRWA will celebrate WTD on Thursday, 8 October. Across the Gaza Strip 8,086 UNRWA teachers provide educational services to almost 251,000 refugee children in 257 UNRWA schools.
  • Although there has been a mixed response in the community in Gaza, UNRWA continues to implement its Shelter Cash for Work (SCfW) pilot project that aims at offsetting temporary accommodation costs through short term employment opportunities supporting early recovery efforts. As of 6 October, 549 families have applied, out of whom 409 beneficiaries have formally accepted a job placement and 369 have already signed their contract. The remaining cases remain under review. The majority of beneficiaries who have signed the contracts are assigned to the agricultural sector and work on rehabilitating green houses, repairing irrigation systems and reclaiming agricultural lands affected during the 2014 conflict. All registered Palestine refugee families whose shelters were identified by UNRWA as uninhabitable are eligible to participate in an optional three-month employment placement (up to two opportunities per family household). Participants will earn US$ 266 per month, which is slightly higher than the monthly transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) payment which ranges from US$200-$250 per month depending on family size. Eligible families are not obligated to participate; participation is entirely voluntary. The Agency sent SMS notifications to approximately 4,900 refugee families.
  • On 30 September, a high-level Japanese delegation that included two members of the House of Representatives of Japan, Mr Masaaki Taniai and Mr. Mitsunari Okamoto, visited the Gaza Strip. They were received by UNRWA and visited an UNRWA Health Centre and an UNRWA school in Khan Younis, as well as the UAE Rehousing Project in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. During their visit, the delegation enjoyed various briefings from senior UNRWA staff members in Gaza, including the Director of UNRWA Operations, Mr. Bo Schack, the Chief of UNRWA’s Education Programme, Mr. Farid Abu Athra, and the Chief of UNRWA’s Health Programme, Dr. Ghada El Jadba. The visit of the Japanese delegation was the second time since 2007 that Israeli authorities permitted parliamentarians to enter the Gaza Strip through Erez crossing for an UNRWA visit. The previous occasion where parliamentarians were permitted by the Israeli authorities to visit Gaza was on 17 February 2015, when a delegation of eleven parliamentarians from Belgium was received by UNRWA in Gaza.
  • The newly released State of the Humanitarian System report, from ALNAP (The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action) which analyses the humanitarian system as well as the quality of the response of the actors involved in it, states that as crises become increasingly protracted, more people need to be assisted over time, which ultimately results in a drop of the overall amount of aid each recipient receives. UNRWA maintains all efforts to working towards avoiding this scenario by putting the Agency on a sustainable financial footing. To engage and maintain the close relationship between UNRWA and its generous donors, during the reporting week the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, travelled to Jerusalem to conduct several high-level donor meetings. Mr. Schack met with senior representatives from Turkey, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Brazil and Spain. The Director also participated in the United Nations Country Team meeting on 2 October.
  • On the International Day for Older Persons, celebrated annually on 1 October, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) office in Nuseirat, central Gaza, launched the initiative “We will not forget you.” The initiative aims at providing social and psycho-social support for elderly persons by enhancing community awareness about their needs and responsibilities. The initiative also included outreach activities such as home visits and the distribution of hygiene products to 10 elderly persons. In addition, a counsellor and a legal advisor from the UNRWA Health Programme in Gaza conducted an awareness-raising sessions for 30 community and family members in the Community-Based Nuseirat Social Training and Rehabilitation Association. Participants were provided with care skills and informed about the legal rights and health requirements of elderly persons. The activities on the International Day are part of broader programming regularly implemented by RSSP for elderly persons.
  • Shelter update
    • To date, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 140,190 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. 5,252 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 122,121 minor, damages.
    • Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 128.9 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict. As of 6 October 2015, UNRWA has completed the payments to over 66,300 Palestine refugee families – more than half of the caseload – for minor repair works, to 547 families to repair their severely damaged shelters and to 7 families for major repair works. Payment transfers for over 11,800 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 135 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
    • Over 12,500 families have received a rental subsidy payment to cover the period from September to December 2014. Disbursement of subsequent installments entailed further eligibility checks through which over 9,900 families have received the relevant rental subsidy payments during the period from January to September 2015.
    • Due to lack of sufficient funding, to date, over 47,000 refugee families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter. UNRWA has processed these cases and they have received approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; as soon as funding is secured, the Agency can distribute the urgently needed assistance to these families. Also, due to lack of funding thousands of refugee families were not yet able to start the reconstruction of their totally demolished home.

  • UNRWA is currently implementing 35 infrastructure projects worth US$ 81.7 million. The 35 projects include schools and health centres, two rehousing projects, four infrastructure projects and one school maintenance project in schools that were used as Collective Centres following the 2014 summer conflict and need rehabilitation. Furthermore, in September UNRWA completed the construction of a conveyance pressure line in Khan Younis and a maintenance project of 54 UNRWA installations of which 39 were schools. The completion of the conveyance pressure line in Khan Younis will alleviate problems with sewage and help protect the coastal environment from raw sewage flowing directly into the sea and seeping into the aquifer. More detailed information on the UNRWA construction efforts in the Gaza Strip can be found in the monthly UNRWA construction update, attached to this weekly situation report.
  • On 30 September the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, convened the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee meeting (AHLC) in New York. The AHLC is committed to the principle of trilateral dialogue between Israel, Palestine and donor governments. The meeting was opened by its Chair, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende and involved Palestinian and Israeli government representativesand the two co-sponsors US Secretary of State John Kerry and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Mr. Ban spoke about the “challenging and volatile situation” on the ground in Israel and Palestine and mentioned that “bold and concrete actions are urgently required to stabilize the situation.” He mentioned the importance of the acceleration of the reconstruction process in Gaza and called on international partners to disburse the funds pledged at the Cairo Conference. He also said that energy and water are desperately needed in Gaza. He furthermore stated that “for Gaza to flourish,” it will need “to be able to trade with Israel, with the rest of Palestine and with the world.” The Chair’s summary reiterated the fact that economic development is conducive to peace and repeated the Secretary General’s call to step up reconstruction in Gaza, which depends on speedier donor aid, the resumption of Palestinian Authority-governance in Gaza and the further easing of restrictions on movements and goods by Israel, including the dual-use list.

  • The Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at United Nations headquarters in New York City on Wednesday, 30 September. ‘This is a day of hope. May the raising of this flag give rise to the hope among the Palestinian people and the international community that Palestinian statehood is achievable,’ said United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon as he attended the ceremonial flag raising, along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. ‘Now is the time to restore confidence by both Israelis and Palestinians for a peaceful settlement and, at last, the realization of two states for two peoples. I sincerely hope that a successful peace process will soon yield a day when we unfurl the Palestinian flag in its proper place – among the family of nations as a sovereign Member State of the United Nations,’ added the Secretary General. Earlier in September, the UN General Assembly decided to raise the flags of non-member observer States at UN offices.

General

Operational environment:  For the month of September 2015, the UNRWA Gaza Safety and Security Division (SSD) reported a decrease in security incidents in Gaza, from 201 incidents (79 related to armed conflict) in August, to 182 incidents (66 of them related to armed conflict) in the past month. Part of the decrease is assessed as being attributed to UNRWA averting the suspension of the Education Programme.   A decrease in incidents directly affecting UNRWA was also recorded, with 34 incidents in September, compared to 61 incidents in August. This is the lowest number since before the 2014 conflict.

Furthermore, in September, there was a reduction in rocket fire, with 12 incidents reported, a decrease from 25 in the previous month’s reporting period (August). Yet whilst there was a reduction in armed conflict incidents in September, recent indicators highlight that this can change quickly, based on internal developments in Gaza or external factors in the West Bank and Jerusalem. On 30 September, Israel responded to rockets from Gaza with seven missiles into Gaza. This incident can be viewed as the most severe response since the end of the 2014 conflict.

On several occasions, incidents of political or inter-communal violence were reported. On 28 September, unknown persons reportedly abducted a man in Gaza City and released him later in a different area, severely beaten. The police arrested the perpetrators. On 29 September, a brawl erupted between supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian politician Mohammad Dahlan in Deir El Balah, central Gaza; slight injuries were reported. On 2 October, a dispute between cousins in southern Gaza resulted in six injuries due to the use of edged weapons. Several persons were arrested.

On several occasions during the reporting week, Palestinians tried to illegally cross into Israel and were arrested by Israeli troops.

Repeated protests were held in front of UNRWA installations over the past week, with refugees demanding a housing unit in the Rafah Rehousing Project. Regular protests were also held in support of Al Aqsa Mosque or Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

For the month September, UNRWA SSD reported a total of 69 demonstrations in Gaza, with 20 being staged at UN installations.

UNRWA response

“Palestine is smart”: Gaza Gateway co-founder shares expertise at the Expotech Technology Week in Gaza

Ibrahim Jobour (second from the right), one of the three co-founders of the UNRWA supported social enterprise Gaza Gateway, is participating in a panel discussion at the Gaza Expotech Technology Week, held from 5 to 8 October. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

Ibrahim Jobour (second from the right), one of the three co-founders of the UNRWA supported social enterprise Gaza Gateway, is participating in a panel discussion at the Gaza Expotech Technology Week, held from 5 to 8 October. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

The Gaza Expotech Technology Week is taking place from 5 to 8 October under the slogan “Palestine is smart.” The purpose of the conference is to create awareness among youth of the capabilities of information technology (IT) to improve the daily life of different community groups, particularly women, persons with special needs and youth.

Ibrahim Jobour, one of the three co-founders of the UNRWA supported social enterprise Gaza Gateway, participated in the conference. In a panel presentation, he explained the role of the Gaza Gateway in promoting employment prospects for young IT graduates, through the outsourcing of business opportunities to private companies in Gaza.

“One part of the Gaza Gateway mission is to create a freelancer platform that aims at helping to address the chronic unemployment in Gaza by opening the global market to IT specialists in Gaza. The platform tries to create international partnerships to mainstream freelance opportunities (online self-employment) to Gaza IT specialists,” Ibrahim said.

Each year, approximately 1,000 Palestinians graduate with computer-related degrees in Gaza, yet according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in 2014 75.1 per cent of them remained unemployed after graduation. The Gaza Gateway initiative tries to build a bridge from IT graduation to private sector employability, with a view to demonstrating that Gaza can deliver competitive commercial services. The aim is to outsource employment opportunities to the Gaza IT sector – particularly the fresh graduates – by using international market demand. Through this, the Gateway offers integrated post-graduate training for young IT professionals, grows and develops the Gaza IT market and its professional capacity, and ultimately blends business and social objectives, creating a sustainable socio-economic impact in the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Gateway is an UNRWA initiative, which in quarter one of 2016 will become fully independent from the Agency. However, it will continue to provide services solicited by UNRWA to assist in addressing refugee needs.

Summary of major incidents 

During the reporting week, Israeli troops fired at Palestinians near the security fence and at Palestinian boats on an almost daily basis. In September, the UNRWA Gaza Safety and Security Division (SSD) reported a total of 21 shooting incidents along the land border with Israel and 18 incidents of naval fire.

On 29 September, militants fired one rocket from northern Gaza towards Israel; the rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome. On 30 September, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) fired seven missiles towards Gaza, allegedly targeting a Hamas training site and a Marine Police site in northern Gaza as well as a Hamas training site in Gaza city. On 30 September, militants fired a rocket from northern Gaza towards Israel; the rocket dropped short and landed inside Gaza. On 1 October, militants fired two rockets from central Gaza towards Israel; both dropped short and landed inside Gaza. On 2 and 3 October, militants fired one rocket towards Israel from southern Gaza; both rockets dropped short and landed inside Gaza.

On 4 October, militants fired one rocket from Gaza city and one from Khan Younis, southern Gaza, towards Israel; one rocket dropped short and the other one landed in an open area in Eshkol Regional Council in Israel.

On 5 October, militants fired four test rockets from Khan Younis towards the sea. On the same day the IAF fired one missile targeting a Hamas training site in Gaza city.

On 30 September, six Israeli bulldozers entered approximately 150 metres into Gaza areas and Israeli troops conducted a clearing and levelling operation, withdrawing on the same day. On 2 October, four bulldozers entered approximately 100 metres into central Gaza and conducted a clearing and levelling operation, withdrawing on the same day.

Funding needs

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, a shortfall of US$ 13.5 million remains. 

In response to the unprecedented needs faced by 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. Read more in the 2015 oPt Emergency Appeal.

Crossings

  • The Rafah Crossing was open on 30 September and 1 October. It was closed on 29 September and 1 to 6 October.
  • The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 29 September to 1 October and on 4 October. On 2 October, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 3 and 5 October.
  • Kerem Shalom was open from 29 September to 1 October and from 4 to 6 October. It was closed on 2 and 3 October.

UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees