23 February –1 February 2016 | Issue 130
Operational environment: Regular protests took place during the reporting week in solidarity with the West Bank journalist Mohammad Al Qeeq who ended his three-month hunger strike on 27 February in an Israeli jail after reportedly reaching a compromise with Israeli authorities. Other demonstrations were held in solidarity with Palestinians demanding the payment of salaries from local authorities, and in mourning the death of a Palestinian former prisoner who was found killed at the Palestinian Embassy in Bulgaria. Protests were also held against UNRWA by beneficiaries criticising alleged delays in their financial assistance, or regarding their housing assessment status. On 27 February, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also held a demonstration in Gaza city to mark its 47th founding anniversary.
On 26 February, a family dispute reportedly took place in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza; edged weapons were used but no injuries were reported. The police arrested several persons.
on 25 February, a hand grenade reportedly exploded accidently while two children were mishandling a fuse inside their home in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. One child died and the other was injured. The police have opened an investigation.
High socio-economic instability, the lack of prospects particularly among youths, damaged infrastructure and heavily impaired service delivery (water, electricity) together with an (initially) slow reconstruction process exacerbates anger and frustration among the people of Gaza. The reconstruction process of Gaza is hindered not only by the Israeli blockade on Gaza, but also by donor reluctance to invest in the large infrastructure needed in Gaza. According to the Washington Institute the possibility for renewed conflict between Hamas and Israel – and the past destruction of billions of dollars of infrastructure and housing in Gaza by Israel – allow donors to shy away from investing into large-scale development projects that are needed to improve the situation in Gaza; instead, donors focus mostly on managing the current living conditions - which are already unbearable for the vast majority of the population.
A number of protests took place during the reporting week, which were mainly associated in solidarity with Palestinian journalist Mohammad Al Qeeq who continues his hunger strike whilst in Israeli detention since the end of November 2015. Popular Refugee Committees held a protest in front UNRWA Field Office in solidarity with Palestine refugees in Lebanon. Hamas also organized protests in solidarity with the four Hamas militants killed in a tunnel collapse on 2 February (see below), and for the release of four Hamas members allegedly kidnapped in the Sinai, Egypt.
On 2 February, two militants of Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, died due to a tunnel collapse in the Gaza Middle Area.
On 2 February, one Palestinian was arrested at Erez Crossing by Israeli forces.
On 8 February, a tunnel collapsed in Rafah area under the border between Gaza and Egypt, which resulted in the death of one Palestinian.
According to media reports, on 8 February the armed wing of the Hamas movement delivered the death penalty against its member Mahmoud Eshtawi, who was executed the same day. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, in 2015 nine death sentences were issued in Gaza; in addition, since the start of 2016, four Palestinians in Gaza were sentenced to death after being accused of spying for Israel.
UNRWA raises awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early detection, amongst Palestine refugee women in Gaza
Due to lack of funding, as of 1 March 2016, over 60,860 refugee families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 68.7 million). Further, 3,194 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes (total estimate repair costs: US$ 28.7 million), 1,880 families have not received payments to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes (total estimate costs: US$ 16.9 million). Out of these, UNRWA has processed the documents of approximately 45,600 families with damaged shelters and could disburse payments to these families immediately upon receipt of funding.
As part of UNRWA’s breast cancer awareness campaign, on 1 March over 50 Palestine refugee women gathered at Al Amal Association for Persons with Disabilities in Rafah, southern Gaza, to learn more about and discuss breast cancer and early detection.
The session was one of over 100 planned awareness and outreach sessions being conducted through the UNRWA Health Programme between mid-February and mid-March 2016. Sessions are being held in the 21 UNRWA Health Centres across Gaza, but also in UNRWA-supported Community-Based Organisations such as Rehabilitation Centres and Women Programme Centres, often located in remote areas.
The session at the Al Amal Association was designed for deaf women. It was led by UNRWA senior nurse Jamalat Abu Hilal and translated in sign language by sta
“Three years ago, my brother’s wife died from breast cancer. Since then I continuously raise awareness among women in the community of how they can better protect themselves from it through early detection,” explained nurse Jamalat. “I hope that all women who participate in these awareness sessions will themselves go and function as messengers for other women whom we could not reach directly; the information must be transferred to everyone,” she added.
During the session, Jamalat explained to the women in detail the importance of regular check-ups and screenings to detect potential breast cancer at an early stage, how women can check themselves and to what extent medical family history can impact the chance of getting breast cancer. The senior nurse also advised the women where they can go to seek help and professional advice.
“This disease is very dangerous, and I am glad I learned how to better protect myself,” commented 24-year old participant Raghda Hashem, who said she was informed about breast cancer for the first time in her life.
After the session, UNRWA health staff also distributed breast cancer awareness brochures to all women for further information, and they offered free check-ups for all participating women .
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 25 February, Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards Palestinian boats in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. One boat sustained damage; no injuries were reported. Also on 27 February, some Palestinian boats sustained damage after Israeli patrol boats opened fire towards them in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
Regular protests in support of Al Aqsa mosque and the situation in the West Bank were held across Gaza and in the vicinity of the perimeter fence. Protests near the perimeter fence, involving approximately 300 persons, predominately youth, 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 reportedly threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with gunfire and tear gas. The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that a total of six persons were injured due to Israeli gun fire.
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.
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 23 to 25 February and from 28 February to 1 March. It was closed on 26 and 27 February