Gaza situation report 139

15 April 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

5 – 12 April | Issue 139

  • UNRWA started the distribution of its new and improved food baskets on 10 April. During the first two days of the distribution, over 6,300 families (almost 31,000 individuals) collected their food rations. In total during this second round of food distribution this year - lasting from April until June 2016 - almost 931,500 individuals, or over 176,000 families, will benefit from the Agency’s food aid. One of the main improvements of the new UNRWA food baskets is the inclusion of lentils and chickpeas – as well as canned sardines for Abject Poor beneficiaries (those households living below US$ 1.5 per capita per day) - selected due to their nutritional values and macro- and micro-nutrients. Palestine refugees in Gaza receive food assistance following their poverty assessment. UNRWA adheres to a poverty targeting mechanism to identify eligibility for food assistance. To estimate the poverty status of the household, the methodology relies on household assets and other indicators or proxies such as housing conditions, demographics and employment situation. To communicate the poverty assessment process to beneficiaries, the Agency created an animation video outlining and explaining the process in detail; the video is currently broadcast on UNRWA TV and its corresponding YouTube channel. With its quarterly food assistance, UNRWA supports Sustainable Development Goal number two – zero hunger. The number of beneficiaries who receive UNRWA food assistance has increased over the years due to deteriorating socio-economic conditions in Gaza, many of which are related to the Israeli blockade which will enter its tenth year in June 2016. In the year 2000, the Agency provided approximately 80,000 refugees in Gaza with food assistance. This number has increased to more than 930,000 today.
  • To encourage community work among UNRWA students and their parents and raise awareness about the environment and how to protect and preserve it, during the reporting week the UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI) conducted a clean-up campaign titled “Healthy Environment.” The campaign was implemented with the support of Community-Based Organizations (CBO) and took place in three areas of Gaza – central Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah, southern Gaza. The activities had been designed and planned by parents and students themselves and included the cleaning of neighbourhoods, the planting of flowers and painting of murals for the CBOs. In total, 260 students and 80 parents participated in the campaign which forms part of the GI “Supporting students in Gaza following the 2014 summer hostilities” project. Through this project, the GI enables support classes for the students, orientation sessions on the educational curriculum for their parents, the establishment of libraries to increase access to information and provide space for recreation, or the provision of Information Technology (IT) training courses.
  • On 7 April, on the occasion of International World Health Day, the UNRWA Gaza Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) organized awareness sessions for approximately 440 elderly persons under the slogan ‘Halt the rise - Beat Diabetes.’ The awareness sessions were held in eight different Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and Women Programme Centres (WPC) across the Gaza Strip, and aimed at providing information and knowledge related to healthy lifestyles such as the importance of physical activity, unhealthy diets, or symptoms of diabetes and how to live and take care of persons with non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is recognized that the main cause of death and illness among Palestine refugees are NCDs such as diabetes; cardiovascular diseases; and cancer. By the end of 2015, about 136,000 Palestine refugee diabetic patients were registered at UNRWA health centres in the Agency’s five fields of operations (Jordan Syria, Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza Strip); numbers are steadily increasing by approximately 0.5 per cent every year. In Gaza, high diabetes rates are a direct result of the disruption to economic and social activity which allows malnutrition and infectious diseases to co-exist with non-communicable health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Forced urbanization, over-crowding and the related psycho-social stress can aggravate these diseases. The ever-increasing cost of diabetes care is a big challenge given the Agency’s scarce resources. Data for 2015 revealed that out of the total expenditure on medicines by UNRWA, 46 per cent was spent on medicines for the treatment of NCDs. 
  • As part of the Agency’s engagement with the European Union, its second largest donor, and advocacy efforts for the rights of Palestine refugees in Gaza, the Director of UNRWA Operations, Bo Schack, traveled to Brussels, Belgium, from 6-8 April. During the three days, Mr. Schack briefed the European Council working party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) as well as the Maghreb/Mashreq (MaMa) working party of the European Council jointly with Robert Piper and met with representatives of the European Parliament from different political groups. Mr. Schack also engaged with representatives of the European Commission Directorate-General ECHO (European Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) and the European External Action Service, as well as representatives from the European Council. He also participated in a Non-Government Organization roundtable and briefed them on the situation in Gaza and UNRWA’s work, and held a meeting with representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Belgium. To raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian situation in the enclave, on 8 April the Director gave a press briefing to international media during which he urged the international community to not forget Gaza, saying that the situation in the Strip is far from stable: “The message from the population is that they want to see peace that allows them to take care of their families and develop as any human being does," the Director said, calling for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
  • On 4 April, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, released a press statement regarding the United Nations having been informed by Israel of its decision to suspend the private import of cement under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) into Gaza, following allegations that a substantial amount had been diverted from its intended legitimate beneficiaries. The GRM as such is not suspended but continues to operate, sales of materials imported under the GRM are continuing through approved vendors in Gaza. UNRWA relies on the GRM for its self-help shelter repair and reconstruction programme under which beneficiaries purchase construction materials from approved vendors with financial support from UNRWA. The Agency is closely following developments. “The people of Gaza depend on the entry of construction material to repair and reconstruct their damaged and destroyed houses following the 2014 conflict and to enable much needed infrastructure and development projects,” Mr. Mladenov stated. UNRWA notes the GRM was never a substitute for a full lifting of the blockade on both imports and exports. The partial suspension does not affect UNRWA’s large portfolio of construction and infrastructure projects (construction of schools, health centres, infrastructure and re-housing projects) which relies on a pre-existing bilateral arrangement with the Israeli authorities for the import of needed materials.
  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) released the findings of an unprecedented profiling exercise of over 16,000 Palestinian families internally displaced in the Gaza Strip as a result of the 2014 escalation of violence. At the peak of the conflict, almost 500,000 persons were internally displaced in UNRWA schools, government schools and informal shelters, or with host families. While following the ceasefire in August 2014 the majority left their emergency shelters, approximately 90,000 were left displaced at the time of the survey, most of whom have moved multiple times. According to the survey-report titled “In the Spotlight” over 80 per cent of these families borrowed money to get by in the past year, over 85 per cent purchased most of their food on credit, and over 40 per cent have decreased their consumption of food. Most internally displaced persons (IDP) households (62.5 per cent) reported that they are renting living space, including from extended family members, and nearly 50 per cent fear being evicted from their accommodation. The situation for women and girls is of particular concern. Many families report living in shelter conditions that are lacking in safety, dignity and privacy, including living in tents, makeshift shelters, destroyed houses, or with no roof over their heads at all. These needs come in the context of prolonged occupation, including the Israeli blockade and three outbreaks of hostilities since 2008, the report states. The profiling exercise had been carried out from mid-August to December 2015 by the IDP Working Group consisting 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. The findings were made available to all relevant actors in a unified database, to enhance humanitarian coordination, programming and advocacy. As the reconstruction effort progresses, nearly 3,000 homes have been rebuilt; however, an estimated 75,000 people remain displaced. UNRWA supports internally displaced Palestine refugees through its self-help shelter repair and reconstruction programme, including payments for repair and reconstruction of damaged/destroyed shelters, the provision of transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA, rental subsidy payments) or the provision of reintegration grants to replace lost household goods.
  • The interest of international media in UNRWA’s work in Gaza remains high. During the reporting week, a team of the Real Madrid Foundation Television visited UNRWA in Gaza as part of a documentary film about the Real Madrid Sports Projects implemented in UNRWA schools. The television team visited two UNRWA schools – the Khan Younis Preparatory Boys C school in southern Gaza as well as the Beach Camp Preparatory Girls A school in western Gaza city – to film and talk to UNRWA students and their families, sports teachers and school principals about the impact of the Real Madrid project on the life of the students. The Real Madrid project started in 2012 and is implemented in 15 of 257 UNRWA schools across Gaza, targeting 580 female and male students. 8 of the 15 schools are girls’ schools and seven are boys’ schools. The project is a social and educational sports project aiming at enhancing refugee children’s sports skills and team spirit, and providing them with a safe space for recreational activities. In addition, from 10 to 13 April UNRWA received a media representative from Japan who focused on the Agency’s provision of primary health care in the Gaza Strip. The journalist met with the Chief Health Programme Dr. Ghada Al Jadba, interviewed the Chief of the Agency’s Community Mental Health Programme, David Hutton, and visited several UNRWA Health Centres across Gaza.


Operational environment: During the reporting week, protests and demonstrations continued across Gaza, predominately in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and journalists in Israeli jails or in support of developments at Al Aqsa Mosque and in the West Bank (see Summary of Major Incidents).

Power outages increased during the reporting week and different areas of Gaza plunged into complete darkness reportedly after the Gaza power plant’s turbines stopped working as a result of the fuel crisis, according to media reports. In Gaza, an Israeli airstrike in June 2006 targeting the Gaza power plant marked the start of an ongoing electricity crisis; rolling blackouts of 12-16 hours per day are seen across Gaza with heavily populated areas being most impacted, as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports.

On 4 April a 45-year old Palestinian male reportedly committed suicide by burning himself in Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir El Balah, central Gaza. The background of the incident is unclear. Police launched an investigation. Also on 4 April, a family dispute took place in northern Gaza which reportedly resulted in four injured persons. They were transferred to the hospital for treatment. The police arrested several persons.

On 6 April, a 25-year old male died in his house in Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, reportedly due to an electrical shock.

On 7 April, a child died in Bureij camp, central Gaza, reportedly due to the break out of a fire in the house.

On 7 April, an unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated, reportedly when a Palestinian civilian was handling it in an open area in Rafah, southern Gaza. The male sustained shrapnel wounds and was evacuated to the hospital.

On 10 April, a family dispute took place in Shujjaiya, east of Gaza city. An iron bar was reportedly used and a 20-year old male was killed. The police arrested several persons. 

On 10 April, it was reported that a Palestinian male attempted to commit suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of a building in Beach camp, in western Gaza city. He sustained severe injuries. The police opened an investigation.

UNRWA response

Thirteen year old Yasmin Al Najjar wins UNRWA human rights competition in Gaza 
13-year old Yasmin Al Najjar (centre), a student in the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI), distributes snacks among her classmates, celebrating her first prize in the UNRWA educational human rights competition in Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
13-year old Yasmin Al Najjar (centre), a student in the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI), distributes snacks among her classmates, celebrating her first prize in the UNRWA educational human rights competition in Gaza city. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

At the end of March 2016, UNRWA launched a voluntary educational human rights competition among all elementary schools in Gaza city. The contest was based on 40 questions related to the UNRWA human rights school curriculum. 65 UNRWA students participated in the competition – among them 13-year old Yasmin Al Najjar, a student in the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza city, who won the first prize.

“When I heard that I won the competition, me, my family and all my colleagues in the centre felt so proud,” Yasmin, who is also a member of the human rights parliament in RCVI, explained. “Everyone had supported and encouraged me to participate, and I even spent one week training and studying for it with one of my teachers,” she added.

The UNRWA Education Programme conducts human rights competitions in its schools in all five areas of Gaza on an annual basis, with a view to supporting and reinforcing the human rights culture among students (including visually impaired students in the RCVI), and to strengthen the human rights education in UNRWA schools.

“Yasmin is a shy student, and in the beginning she did not want to participate; however, after she won, I feel she became more outgoing and active,” Yasmin’s human rights teacher, Khadija Al Masharawi, said. 

Yasmin is not the only winner coming from RCVI. In addition, 10-year old Jaser El Arjaa’ and 12-year old Mariam Abu Shaweesh, won first prizes in the human rights drawing competitions which took place at the same time to encourage students to express their understanding of human rights through arts. 

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 understand, enjoy and exercise their rights, uphold human rights values and contribute positively to their society and the global community. 

The RCVI is part of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme (RSSP) and offers rehabilitation, education and recreational activities for visually impaired children aged between four and 12 years, based on the same curriculum as in other UNRWA schools.  It is the only centre in Gaza providing these types of services to a total of 465 students studying in the RCVI, in UNRWA schools as well as in government schools. 

Summary of Major Incidents 

During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 7 April Israeli forced reportedly arrested two fishermen west of Gaza Middle Area. No injuries or damage were reported. 

On 8 April, one fisherman was reportedly injured and arrested along with three others by Israeli forces in southern Gaza. Two boats were reportedly confiscated. Three fishermen were reportedly released later on the same day, while the fourth reportedly remains in Israel for treatment.

On 10 April, a Palestinian male reportedly tried to enter Israel illegally through the perimeter fence in southern Gaza. Israeli forces reportedly opened fire and arrested him. No injuries were reported.

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 200 persons, predominately youth, took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, east of Gaza city, and in the vicinity of the Erez crossing. 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 reported that 10 Palestinians were injured as a result, six of them reportedly from gas inhalation.

On 5 April, three Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into Rafah area in southern Gaza, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They reportedly withdrew on the same day.

On 6 April, militants reportedly fired three test rockets from southern Gaza towards the sea. No injuries or damage were reported. The following day, seven Israeli bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into central Gaza, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They reportedly withdrew on the same day.

On 8 April three Israeli bulldozers and one tank entered approximately 50 metres into east of Gaza city area, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation; one bulldozer was damaged following an incident involving an explosive device. Circumstances regarding the incident remain unclear.   A few hours later on the same day three Israeli bulldozers and one tank entered approximately 150 metres into east of Gaza city area, to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They reportedly all withdrew on the same day

On 10 April, six Israel bulldozers and one tank reportedly entered 100 metres into east of Gaza city areas, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.

On 10 April, one Israeli bulldozer and two tanks reportedly entered approximately 50 metres into southern Gaza, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.

Funding Needs

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. UNRWA urgently appeals to donors to generously contribute to its emergency shelter programme to provide displaced Palestine refugees in Gaza with rental subsidies or cash assistance to undertake repair works and reconstruction of their damaged homes.

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. More information can be found here:

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.

  • 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 April and from 10 to 12 April. On 8 April it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 9 April.
  • 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 and from 10 to 12 April. It was closed 8 and 9 April.