Gaza situation report 126

14 January 2016
Ea'tidal Al Najar, Photo credit: ©UNRWA

5 –12 January 2016 | Issue 126

  • In December 2015, UNRWA launched its annual winterization campaign on social media under the hashtag #shareyourwarmth. The campaign, which continues until February 2016, aims to raise US$ 2 million to provide vulnerable Palestine refugee families, including those in Gaza, with shelter assistance, tarpaulin, warm meals, blankets, mattresses, heaters and other items they need to cope with the harsh conditions. As of 5 January 2016, the campaign has reached approximately 12.5 million people through online channels; with the campaign video having been viewed 3.5 million times. To date, the Agency has raised US$ 104,115 from individual donors and US$ 28,000 has been pledged for the coming months. Individual donors are from 69 different countries, with the majority from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. From Gaza, the campaign features portraits of Palestine refugees – women, men and children – who are still displaced since the 2014 conflict and who live in containers or in insufficient make-shift shelters.  
  • UNRWA has released results of its reformed poverty assessment undertaken during the fourth quarter of 2015. These follow earlier results the Agency reported after it resumed home visits in May 2015 through the revised Poverty Assessment System (PAS).  Since the PAS rollout on 31 May 2015 and up to 31 December 2015, an additional 12,767 families (48,833 persons)  were added to the existing food assistance beneficiaries under the emergency food distribution; of these, 6,577 families (26,271 persons) are expected to start receiving their food assistance in the current distribution round (January - March 2016). The total number of cases visited by UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) social workers since the beginning of the PAS in May 2015 is 33,545 families; of them 30,854 are classified as New Applicants, 848 as Special First Applicants and 1,843 as Restudy. A total of 25,000 families are expected to be visited during the first quarter of 2016. The number of beneficiaries who receive UNRWA food assistance is continuously increasing due to deteriorating socio-economic conditions in Gaza related to the eight year Israeli blockade. To date, the Agency provides approximately 900,000 Palestine refugees with food assistance.  
  • The UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI) commenced the “Empowerment Programme for Female-Heads of Households” (FHHs) project during the reporting week. Working with UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP), the GI designed a training programme for these women to give them skills to improve their situation. The economic obstacles faced by women who head households in Gaza are commonly a combination of lack of formal skills and access to capital or guaranteed salary which, in the context of Gaza, is further exacerbated by the effects of the blockade. FHHs thus remain a particularly vulnerable group subject to marginalization, greater poverty levels and social stigmatization. The new project attempts to equip FHHs with the skills needed to develop small-scale enterprises and home-based businesses which remain one of the few avenues available for income-generating activities among this group. Through targeted training, the project offers skills-building on self-development, financial literacy and household management with a view to better enable the participants to think strategically as decision-makers and equip them with the skills needed to manage income while also seeking innovation in resource-utilization. The project targets women who are widowed, divorced, single, separated or women who have a husband that is unable to provide for their family due to a disability. The selected participants are all aged between 25 to 50 years and have a school certificate for grade 11. The requirement of age is to have participants who are still interested in starting businesses, while the requirement of schooling addresses the need for participants to understand the basics of calculus.  
  • As the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gaza reports in a newly published fact sheet on the impact of the 2014 hostilities on women and girls in Gaza, they have been disproportionately affected by the 2014 conflict which exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities caused by the eight year Israeli imposed blockade on Gaza and the discrimination against women within Palestinian society. To date, approximately 24,300 girls and 22,9000 women whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in the conflict remain displaced in precarious conditions, as assessed through the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Registration Survey implemented by the IDP working group in Gaza. The Working Group consists of United Nations (UN) agencies including UNRWA and OCHA, the Palestinian non-government organisations network (PNGO), international non-government organizations, such as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), community-based organizations, the Ministry of Social Affairs, municipalities and other relevant line ministries as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national society, the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Displaced women and girls face a wide-range of protection concerns, including lack of privacy and the risk of exposure to Gender-Based Violence and harassment. Further, the traditional retention of property rights by men impedes the access of displaced women to legal and shelter-related assistance by many humanitarian actors. UNRWA tries to address this problem for example through its co-signing policy between husbands and wives for the receipt of a shelter in its refugee rehousing projects. The ongoing impact of conflict, blockade and humanitarian crisis on the lives of women and their families is also explained in a new report by NRC, compiled in cooperation with UNRWA, OCHA and UN Women, among others. The report titled “Gaza: the impact of conflict on women” addresses a wide-range of issues including the protection of women during and after conflict, the situation of displaced women, widowhood and custody of children, and women’s access to sources of livelihoods.  
  • In December, UNRWA completed two lots of a large ten-lot infrastructure project aimed at safeguarding and improving environmental conditions for refugees through repairs of water and sewerage networks in camps. UNRWA also completed a total of six infrastructure projects: a school in Rafah, the fifth and last component of an alteration project to convert handicraft and home economics units at UNRWA schools into classrooms, two maintenance projects as well as two smaller maintenance and infrastructure projects. As of 31 December 2015, UNRWA had 37 ongoing infrastructure projects worth US$ 78.5 million as well as three components of a large infrastructure project implemented in all camps across the Gaza Strip. The value of projects currently under implementation is US$ 211.4 million. Further, in December UNRWA received approval from the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit (COGAT) for four projects. In the same month UNRWA submitted three additional projects for COGAT approval: two emergency preparedness projects and one Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project. Further, UNRWA submitted five additional materials requests for COGAT approval, including a request for material needed to fabricate 8,300 pieces of school tables and 16,600 school chairs for pupils. For more information, please read the attached December 2015 UNRWA Construction Update.  
  • Shelter update: A comprehensive shelter update will be provided in the situation report issued on Wednesday 20 January.


Operational environment: Unrest has continued in Gaza during the reporting week. Protests took place during the against developments in the West Bank and at Al Aqsa Mosque and for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; protestors also demanded the release of the satirical journalists Ayman Al Aloul and his colleague Ramzy Harzallah who had been detained by internal security in Gaza in the previous week.

In the new year 2016, the blockade on Gaza continues to cripple the enclave’s economy, and hamper the dreams of Palestine refugees in Gaza for a more secure future. During the reporting week, the “3Run Gaza” group – a well-known Gaza parkour-group - was not able to leave Gaza and participate in an international competition due to restrictions of movement imposed by the blockade, as reported in the media.  “All of our dreams end on the doorstep of the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip,” summarized the founder of the group, Mohamed Lubbad, the situation.

On 5 January, a Palestinian merchant was arrested by Israeli forces at Erez crossing.

UNRWA response

The Better Gaza campaign:
improving the living conditions in Beach camp with brushes and paint
Refugee children in Beach camp in western Gaza city in front of their newly painted home as part of the “Better Gaza” campaign. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
Refugee children in Beach camp in western Gaza city in front of their newly painted home as part of the “Better Gaza” campaign. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

Through its Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP), UNRWA attempts to improve the living conditions of Palestine refugees in eight refugee camps located across the Gaza Strip. ICIP activities include planning, design and construction of UNRWA facilities, implementing the self-help shelter programme as well as delivering services to camps such as the restoration of sewage and drainage networks and maintenance and sanitation works. ICIP operates on the premise that the spatial and environmental conditions in which Palestine refugees live cannot be divorced from their livelihood or well-being.

Over the past several weeks, the Agency’s efforts have been complemented by a community effort through a group of Gaza artists’ “Better Gaza” (“Gaza Ahla”) campaign. The “Better Gaza” campaign is a local community initiative that aims to provide some hope and cheer to struggling refugee camp inhabitants.

“After the 2014 conflict, people in Gaza were depressed and I wanted to use art to spread a bit of happiness and colours,” explained artist Dalia Abed Rahman who invented the campaign and spread the idea on social media to mobilize approximately 30 volunteers to support her to paint and decorate the homes in one of the poorest areas in Gaza, in Beach camp, western Gaza city.

“I am happy to see rainbow colours around me, this makes me feel relaxed,” commented camp inhabitant Sabrin Abu Amira whose seven children also participated in the painting activity. “I hope someone could also go inside the homes and see how people live, and try to improve their situation,” added her relative Salwa Abu Amira.

Indeed, although the people in Beach camp are happy about the colours that decorate the facades of their houses, the camp is still haunted by poverty and overcrowding.

Artist Dalia is well aware of that. Yet, “as an artist, the only tools I have to improve the situation are the brush and the paint. And even if I only change the life of one person through my campaign I feel satisfied. These are the only means I have to change something for the people of Gaza,” she explained.

At the beginning, many inhabitants were skeptical about the campaign, but not 77-year old Yousef Salah who was born and spent his whole life in Beach camp: “When the young people came to ask for approval to paint my home, I accepted quickly because I want this place to look beautiful.”

Summary of Major Incidents

During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian fishing boats and Palestinian farmers near the perimeter fence on numerous occasions. In one such incident on 5 January, one Palestinian fishing boat was reportedly burned and sustained damage. No injuries were reported. In a similar incident on 9 January, one boat reportedly sustained damage. On 10 and 11 January, Israeli forces also reportedly fired shells towards Palestinian boats. No injuries were reported. On 11 January, Egyptian patrol boats reportedly opened fire towards Palestinian boats. No injuries were reported.

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 12 persons were reportedly injured due to Israeli gun fire and approximately nine are reported to have suffered from gas inhalation.

On 5 January, militants reportedly fired three test rockets from Gaza city towards the sea.

On 7 January, militants reportedly fired nine test rockets from Gaza city towards the sea.

On 9 January, militants reportedly fired seven test rockets from Khan Younis, southern Gaza, towards the sea.

On 10 January, militants reportedly fired eleven test rockets from Khan Younis towards the sea.

Funding Needs

Thanks to generous donors, UNRWA has overcome its immediate and most serious financial crisis. For 2016, the Agencynow projects a deficit of US$ 81 million, down from US$ 135 million as estimated earlier this year. This is the first time in ten years that UNRWA expects a zero-growth programme budget owing to strategic changes in staffing, business processes including procurement, budgeting norms, and service delivery models, amongst other measures.

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. More information can be found here.


Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel prevents all access to and from the Gaza Strip by sea and air. 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 numbers 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 open six days a week. It was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 5 to 7 January and from 10 to 12 January. On 8 January it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 9 January.
  • Kerem Shalom crossing is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip and is usually open five days a week. It was open from 5 to 7 January and from 10 to 12 January. It was closed on 8 and 9 January.
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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