Gaza situation report 121
24 November -1 December | Issue 121
- 25 November marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the beginning of the annual 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign, led by UN Women. The campaign calls upon activists, governments and United Nations partners to mobilize people and highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls. UNRWA is joining more than 5,000 UN Agencies, organizations, governments and countless individuals to raise awareness on gender-based violence. A campaign video from the United Nations country team in the occupied Palestinian territory, featuring UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl, can be viewed here. The 2015 16 days theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All” speaks significantly to UNRWA’s work in Gaza. During the 16 days, through its Relief and Social Services and Education programmes, as well as the Gender Initiative, UNRWA is providing a variety of activities, ranging from awareness sessions and training of human rights teachers and students on early marriage, adolescent health, GBV and women’s human rights, to the organization of theatre sketches, exhibitions and open discussion forums on causes and consequences of GBV in Community-Based Organizations and Women Programme Centres across the Gaza Strip. Ending GBV is a top priority for achieving the UN’s founding mission of peace, development and human rights. To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women the independent global leaders group The Elders has compiled a quiz on the subject – with some surprising facts, such as that over 700 million women today were married before the age of 18. The newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also recognizes the importance of eliminating violence against women, with related targets across several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Every year UNRWA, in all five fields of operation including Gaza, conducts an end-of-year campaign to raise awareness and funding regarding the difficult humanitarian situation vulnerable Palestine refugees face during the winter season – particularly those families whose home was destroyed or damaged and those who have had to flee conflict. On 1 December, UNRWA launched this year’s winterization campaign on social media under the hashtag #ShareyourWarmth. The campaign aims to fund raise US$ 2 million to provide vulnerable Palestine refugee families with shelter assistance, tarpaulin, warm meals, blankets, mattresses, heaters and other items they need to cope with the harsh conditions. From Gaza, the campaign features portraits of Palestine refugees – women, men and children – who are still displaced since the 2014 conflict or who live in insufficient make-shift shelters. The campaign highlights some of the human costs and consequences of failing to deliver essential humanitarian aid due to lack of funding. Last year in Gaza, the winter storm Huda brought sub-zero temperatures, heavy rains and floods to Gaza, compounding hardship after the summer conflict. Many would not have been able to cope without assistance from UNRWA.
- During the reporting week, UNRWA announced new opportunities for short-term vocational training courses for approximately 480 male and female over-aged students (those who have previously failed two or more years in school) and those who had not passed Tawjihi (university entrance diploma). 17 different types of competency-based training courses, including plastering, tiling, carpentry, early childhood care, website development/design and photography and media production will be offered in the Gaza and Khan Younis Vocational Training Centres. The students will be trained for six months, and after successful competition of their training they will have the opportunity to practice their knowledge and skills in a six-month internship in a business in the local market. The UNRWA vocational training courses aim at mitigating the effects of emergencies on Palestine refugees through skills and capacity building to increase their opportunities for gainful employment in the context of a crippled economy with, according to the World Bank, one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. To reach a wide-range of potential candidates, including those living in remote communities, the Agency announced training opportunities through various different channels such as the Area Education Offices, the Chief Area Offices and its staff portal.
- The UNRWA Chief Area Offices in Gaza are often the first contact point for beneficiaries and are thus an important link between the Agency’s management and the community. They also adopt a critical coordination role of UNRWA services and programmes on the area level and represent the Agency to community groups, community leaders or civil society organizations through formal and informal outreach meetings, often creating sustainable and fruitful partnerships. During the reporting week, representatives from the Chief Area Office in North Gaza for example met with various community leaders from Beit Lahya, including the mayor, and the Director of Interpal (the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund) in Gaza, to discuss how to improve the living conditions of the students in Al Fardous school. It was agreed that a railing will be set up between the school and the street to protect the children from cars, more drinking water tanks will be installed at the school and a shed will be stretched over the school yard to safeguard the students from the rain and the sun. Interpal provides humanitarian aid education, health and community development in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon and is an important partner to UNRWA.
- To gain a comprehensive understanding of UNRWA programmes and projects in Gaza, the Spanish Consul General in Jerusalem, H.E. Mr. Hansi Escobar, and a journalist from the Spanish newspaper El Pais, visited the Gaza Strip on 24 November. They visited an UNRWA Distribution Centre, an UNRWA school and an UNRWA Health Centre and were briefed by senior UNRWA staff on the Agency’s operation in the enclave. They were also interested to learn more about the UNRWA self-help shelter repair programme and thus visited the heavily shelled neighbourhood of Shujjaiya in eastern Gaza city where they were made aware of the slow reconstruction process over the first year following the end of the 2014 conflict.
- Shelter update
- Over the past two reporting weeks, UNRWA was able to disburse approximately US$ 1.34 million in funding available for reconstruction (US$ 675,815) and repair works of severely damaged shelters (US$ 666,753). The funds will reach a total of 171 refugee families across the Gaza Strip. The families were able to access this assistance through local banks this week.
- As of 1 December, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 141,117 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during the 2014 conflict; 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. 5,318 shelters have suffered severe, 3,700 major and 122,982 minor damages.
- Since the start of the 2014 emergency shelter response, the Agency has distributed over US$ 133.49 million (excluding Programme Support Costs) to Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or demolished during the 2014 summer conflict. Yet due to lack of funding, as of 1 December 2015, over 59,900 refugee families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes. Further, 3,200 families have not received any payments to repair their major damaged homes and over 3,350 families have not received payments to repair their severely damaged homes. Over 15 months after the last conflict ended, more than 7,230 refugee families have not received any payments to start repairing their totally demolished homes.
- UNRWA has completed the payments to over 66,300 Palestine refugee families – more than half of the caseload – for minor repair works, to 1,134 families to repair their severely damaged shelters, to 10 families for major repair works and to three families for reconstruction. Payment transfers for over 11,200 refugee families to continue repair works of their shelters and for 166 families to continue the reconstruction of their shelters are ongoing.
- Over 13,160 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, approximately 9,000 families have not received rental subsidy payments to cover the last four months of 2015.
International Administrative Law is the law governing employment relations of civil servants of international organizations. UNRWA has over 30,000 area and international staff in five fields of operation. Each day managers take many decisions that affect staff. It is important that these decisions are in accordance with the Agency’s regulatory framework and international administrative law. Consistent and correct administrative decisions promote good industrial relations; good staff management relations, accountability and limit reputational risk and financial exposure of the Agency. To strengthen, unify and standardize knowledge, understanding and decision-making related to administrative law, during the reporting week the Agency held a three-day UNRWA Administrative Law Training at the Gaza Field Office for administrative decision-makers and their advisers who need to have a solid understanding of international administrative law in their daily work. The interactive workshop has also been delivered to management in other fields. It was provided by experts from the UNRWA Headquarters Department of Legal Affairs and covered important issues such as the legal framework for the application of international administrative law in UNRWA, best practices on various types of administrative decisions and procedures, as well as formal and informal internal conflict resolution methods within the Agency.
- UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl was in Brussels on 23 and 24 November for a series of high-level meetings to draw attention to the situation of Palestine refugees in the Middle East, as well as ongoing efforts to address the operational and financial challenges currently facing the Agency. In his meetings with high-level EU and Member States representatives, Mr. Krähenbühl thanked the European Union for its long-standing and consistent support to the Agency and discussed the future financial sustainability of UNRWA and how to ensure continued quality services to Palestine refugees. During his visit, on 24 November the European Parliament passed two resolutions related to education in emergencies. The resolution on ‘The role of the EU in the UN’ recommends ensuring cooperation between the EU and the UN for education in emergency programmes in the event of humanitarian crises, armed conflicts and natural disasters, by continuing to support programmes such as the educational work of UNRWA, the United Nations Children Fund’s (UNICEF) Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition or the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) quality education programme in refugees camps. The second resolution on ‘Education for children in emergency situations and protracted crises’ mentions that UNRWA has developed innovative, inclusive and holistic approaches to education in emergencies with a view to ensuring access to quality education for refugee children affected by ongoing conflicts through interactive self-learning materials and capacity-building activities. The resolution calls on the EU to systematically include education and protection of children in the whole emergency response cycle and to ensure flexible multi-year funds for protracted crises.
- On 29 November the United Nations observed the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. On that day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II) which provided for the establishment in Palestine of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”. Of the two States to be created under this resolution, only one, Israel, has so far come into being. Hence, 29 November also serves as an opportunity for the UN to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine remains unresolved as the Palestinian people, who now number more than eight million, live primarily in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem; in Israel; in neighbouring Arab States; and in refugee camps in the region. In observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People a photo exhibition entitled “Palestinian Children: Overcoming Tragedies with Hope, Dreams, Resilience and Dignity” was held in the Visitors’ Lobby at United Nations Headquarters. During the ceremony, remarks were made, among others, by Richard Wright, the Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York.
Operational environment: UNRWA shows its solidarity with the Palestinian people every day through its comprehensive operations, aimed at mitigating the devastating effects of an ongoing - and repeated - displacement crisis. Palestine refugees in Gaza face increasing vulnerability and many are confronted with a feeling of ‘having nothing to lose’ and suffer from an existential crisis due to ongoing and growing isolation of the Gaza Strip.
Feelings of confinement, followed by high levels of frustration, resentment and hopelessness, have also this week led hundreds of people, mainly youth, to protest in support of Al Aqsa Mosque and developments in the West Bank across Gaza and in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Demonstrations were also held against the banning of Islamic Movement in Israel, for more women rights and for ending violence against women, and for the release of Palestinian children from Israeli jails.
One incident of intra-familial violence was reported during the reporting week. On 25 November, an 18-year old girl was killed by her brother in northern Gaza. The police opened an investigation.
The power, will and right to create change: In human rights training sessions, UNRWA tackles gender stereotypes
25 November marked the beginning of the annual UN 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign. UNRWA is joining more than 5,000 UN Agencies, organizations, governments and countless individuals to raise awareness on Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
As part of several other ongoing activities during these 16 days, between 25 November and 1 December the Agency organized a training for a total of 231 preparatory level human rights and health teachers on GBV, early marriage and adolescent health. The training aimed at increasing the teacher’s theoretical knowledge and skills, and also at tackling wide-spread stereotypes of gender roles.
Thus, at the beginning of each training session, trainer Jawaher Barakat, a member of the Gaza women’s organisation Aisha, asked the participants to write down conventional characteristics of men and women in an exercise to create awareness and understanding of the difference between gender and sex.
“Women can be everything, from doctors to teachers, managers or community leaders,” commented UNRWA human rights teacher Hend Siam in a lively discussion. “Women play an equally important role in the community as men do.”
UNRWA has been delivering human rights education in its schools since 2000 to promote non-violence, healthy communication skills, peaceful conflict resolution, Human Rights, tolerance and good citizenship. Through this education, UNRWA empowers Palestine refugee students to enjoy and exercise their rights, uphold human rights values and contribute positively to their society and the global community. The aim of the special training sessions for human rights teachers thus mainly aims at transferring the newly gained knowledge and awareness to their students during their regular lessons in all UNRWA schools.
“We need to treat others the way we would like them to treat us; imagine you are born as a woman, and then think about how you want others to treat you,” explained UNRWA Professional Development and Curriculum Coordinator Ibrahim Wishah, who co-organized the trainings, to the participants. And later he added: “human rights teachers carry important messages; we need to invest in them to raise awareness on gender-based violence among our students.”
This approach is also shared by Jawaher Barakat: “Women, equally to men, have the power, will and the right to create change. If teachers transfer these ideas to their students through the human rights education in UNRWA schools, then we will create a conscious generation that understands the true meaning of women rights and equality,” she said.
The annual ‘UN 16-days against Gender-Based Violence’- campaign is a top priority for achieving the UNs founding mission of peace, development and Human Rights. It is as important a goal for men and boys as it is for women and girls. The 2015 theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All” speaks significantly to UNRWA work in Gaza, and at the same time provides an opportunity to look at further work on offering tools and information to the refugee community on this important issue.
Summary of Major Incidents
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian fisher boats and Palestinian farmers near the perimeter fence on a daily basis. On 25 November, Israeli forces reportedly used a water cannon to shoot towards Palestinian boats in central Gaza; two Palestinians were injured and one boat sustained damage.
Regular protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the West Bank were held in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Protests took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, east of Gaza city, in the vicinity of Erez crossing or in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. During these protests, some participants reportedly approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. A total of approximately 22 persons were reportedly injured due to Israeli gun fire and approximately seven are reported to have suffered from gas inhalation.
On 23 November, Israeli forces reportedly fired a missile targeting a Hamas training site west of Al Maghazi camp in southern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 25 November, four bulldozers and two tanks reportedly entered approximately 300 metres into northern Gaza and conducted a clearing and excavation operation.
On 25 November, three Israeli bulldozers and one tank reportedly entered approximately 200 metres into central Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation.
On 26 November, militants reportedly fired one rocket from northern Gaza towards Israel; the rocket dropped short and landed inside Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 27 November, militants reportedly fired two test rockets towards the sea from northern Gaza
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$ 2.61 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$ 247 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$ 473 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.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 Palestinians in Gaza. Movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza is restricted to three crossings: Rafah crossing, Erez crossing and Kerem Shalom Crossing. Rafah crossing is controlled by the Egyptian authorities and technically allows for the movement of a number of authorized travelers, Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases only. Erez crossing is controlled by Israeli authorities and technically allows for the movement of aid workers and limited number of authorized travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Kerem Shalom crossing, also controlled by Israeli authorities, technically allows for the movement of authorized goods only.
- Rafah crossing remained closed during the reporting week.
- Erez crossing is usually opened six days a week. It was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 24 to 26 November and from 29 November to 1 December. On 27 November it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 28 November.
Kerem Shalom crossing is usually opened five days a week. It was open from 24 to 26 November and from 29 November to 1 December. It was closed on 27 and 28 November.
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