16 February – 23 February 2016 | Issue 132
Operational environment: Regular protests took place during the reporting week in solidarity with West Bank journalist Mohammad Al Qeeq who went on a hunger strike in an Israeli jail; protests also took place in front of UNRWA installations with Palestine refugees demanding job opportunities, housing, or protesting against the reduction in hospitalization services for refugees in Lebanon. Palestine refugees from Syria also held a protest in front of the Fatah Movement office in Gaza city, demanding the improvement of their living conditions.
On 16 February, an explosion took place in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 16 February, Israeli troops arrested three Palestinians who tried to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence east of Rafah in southern Gaza.
On 17 February, a 45 year old female was reportedly stabbed to death by her daughter in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, due to an alleged family dispute. The police opened an investigation.
On 18 February three brothers were injured due to reportedly mishandling of an item which exploded accidently in their house in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza.
On 19 February, unknown person(s) detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in front of the house of the Sabreen movement leader Hisham Salem in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. The explosion caused damage but no injuries were reported. The police opened an investigation. On 20 February, unknown person(s) detonated another IED in front of a house of a member of Al Sabreen Movement in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. Minor damage but no injuries were reported. The police arrived to the scene and opened an investigation.
The Palestinian male who reportedly attempted suicide during the last reporting week by burning himself in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, died from his wounds on 19 February.
The Gaza Strip has one of the highest unemployment rates world-wide, according to the World Bank. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the overall unemployment rate stood at 38.4 per cent, as reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). While the rate declined by 4.3 percentage points compared to the previous quarter, joblessness remains high in Gaza, particularly amongst youth, with an average unemployment rate of almost 63 per cent and 66.3 per cent for refugee youth. The numbers are more dire for women: in the third quarter of 2015, the PCBS reports a rate of over 84 per cent.
Against the backdrop of a society already torn by repeated conflicts, wide-spread poverty, heightening vulnerability and political instability within the occupied Palestinian territory, youth unemployment can increase frustration, anger and feelings of hopelessness, and can lead to depression.
UNRWA contributes to mitigating the impact of these difficult socio-economic circumstances through various employment-related interventions. Focusing on youth in particular, the Agency provides skills-based training through its two vocational training centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis to increase the chances of youths in the highly-competitive Gaza job market.
UNRWA also provides regular employment opportunities for talented and motivated youths. 23-year old Ahmad Al Attar, who since January 2016 worked as a clerk in the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza city, considers himself lucky to be able to contribute to his family’s household through a job with UNRWA.
“Since I have this job, I feel my family trusts me more; I have now more responsibility towards them, as I contribute to the household,” he said proudly.
Ahmad struggled in the past. When he was only five years old, he suffered an accident resulting in a disability lasting for life. After the accident, he said, he lost his self-esteem and self-confidence.
“I felt like a loser; I was not motivated and felt depressed. But then one day I decided to stand up, focus on education and pursue my dreams, despite all odds. My family – especially my brothers and sisters – and UNRWA teachers were very supportive of me,” Ahmed recalled.
After graduating in Development Planning from the University of Applied Sciences in Gaza in September 2015, Ahmad worked for a Community-Based Rehabilitation Centre in Rafah, southern Gaza, for three months, until he found an employment opportunity with UNRWA.
“At RCVI, I work as a clerk and have mostly managerial and administrative tasks. However, in the morning I join the bus with all the visually impaired children coming to school here, and I help them and advise them as much as I can,” Ahmad said, smiling. “I wish for the young people of Gaza to have the same opportunity, and to live in peace and safety; I hope they all also get a chance to follow their dreams in life.”
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis.
Regular protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the situation in the West Bank were held in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Protests, involving approximately 300 persons, predominately youths, took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, east of Gaza city, in the vicinity of the Erez crossing and in Khan Younis. During these protests, some participants approached the perimeter fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces responded with gunfire and tear gas. The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that a total of 10 persons were injured due to Israeli gun fire.
On 17 February four Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 150 metres southeast of Maghazi camp and later moved east of Deir El Balah, both in central Gaza, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day. On the same day three Israeli tanks and two bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 200 metres into southern Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
On 18 February four Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres east of Khan Younis area in southern Gaza to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 81 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Following the 2014 conflict, 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 occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Emergency Appeal for 2016, the Agency is seeking US$ 403 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt. The Agency requires US$ 355.95 million for programme interventions in Gaza, including US$ 109.7 million for emergency food assistance, US$ 142.3 million for emergency shelter assistance, US$ 60.4 million for emergency cash-for-work assistance, US$ 4.4 million for emergency health/mobile health clinics and US$ 3.1 for education in emergencies.
Read more in the 2016 oPt emergency appeal.
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.