Operational environment: Regular protests and demonstrations took place during the reporting week, predominantly against the closure of Rafah crossing and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Other demonstrations were held across Gaza in support of developments at Al Aqsa Mosque and in the West Bank (see Summary of Major Incidents).
On 21 April, a Palestinian male was arrested by Israeli forces east of central Gaza when he reportedly tried to cross into Israel through the perimeter fence.
On 21 April, a gunman reportedly shot and killed a Palestinian male in Gaza city. The police reportedly arrested the gunman and opened an investigation.
A 19-year old Palestinian youth who was reportedly injured during protests at the perimeter fence on 18 April was reportedly arrested by Israeli forces on 20 April at Erez crossing when he attempted to cross to receive medical treatment in the West Bank.
On 24 April, three persons reportedly assaulted an UNRWA Job-Creation Programme (JCP) contractor at the sanitation office in Bureij camp, central Gaza. One of the assailants reportedly used a knife; the JCP contractor suffered injuries and was treated in a hospital. The motive for the assault was reportedly due to a family dispute.
Unemployment in Gaza has been consistently high over the past two years, and the Strip is considered as having one of the highest joblessness rates in the world. In 2015, the overall youth unemployment rate stood at 61 per cent, and the youth female unemployment rate at 78.5 per cent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
UNRWA tries to mitigate the impact of these dire circumstances through various employment-related interventions, for example through its Job-Creation Programme, the generation of full-time job equivalents (FTEs) via its construction activities (including self-help shelter programme and reconstruction interventions), and vocational training to provide youth with skills-based training to increase their chances in the Gaza job market. Currently, the Agency provides vocational training opportunities for a total of 1,685 youths in its two vocational training centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis; 524 of the youth are female and 1,161 are male.
18-year old Mohammad Bassam Al Masri is one of 18 students who in February 2016 completed a vocational training in masonry at the Gaza Vocational Training Centre, in addition to a three-month internship in the private sector facilitated through UNRWA to allow the students to gain on the job-training and work experience. The training and internship allowed him to professionalize his knowledge in bleaching materials, building proper walls with weight, levelling or interlocking, or implementing works of shuttering ground beams.
Being a young man with a lot of self-initiative, Mohammad did not wait long to put his newly acquired skills to use.
“In school, I was a low-achieving student, and after finishing preparatory school I started working at construction sites, together with my uncle. When I heard about the vocational training, I thought this may be a good opportunity to improve my skills,” he explained. “So I kept working as construction worker in the mornings, but in the afternoon I went to the training. While previously I was considered an unskilled labourer, I now work independently, mostly in repairing or rebuilding the shelters of Palestine refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the 2014 conflict,” he added.
For Mohammad, the training was not only a chance to develop his own knowledge, but he also tries to transfer his new skills and understanding to his brothers who work with him in construction. “I also always encourage them to apply for a vocational training with UNRWA,” he explained.
The Gaza construction sector is the most important job-providing sector in Gaza, particularly for youth. In quarter four of 2015, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reached US$ 502 million, a 12.7 per cent increase compared to the previous quarter, mainly due to private consumption as activity in the construction sector doubled because houses in Gaza could be repaired and rebuilt. In quarter one of 2016, UNRWA expended US$ 38.8 million across contracted projects and self-help assistance, generating a total of 11,373 full-time equivalents (FTEs) over one quarter. US$ 25.3 million were disbursed for self-help repair and reconstruction only, contributing 7,411 of these FTEs.
Reconstruction activity in particular increased significantly, reflecting the highest level of quarterly disbursement since the start of the UNRWA self-help shelter intervention. Further, youth unemployment for the first time in two years declined to below 60 per cent in the last quarter of 2015 as the number of persons employed in the construction sector doubled.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 19 April, three Palestinians were reportedly arrested and their boats confiscated by Israeli forces. One injury was 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 110 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 five Palestinians were injured as a result, four of them reportedly from gas inhalation.
On 19 April, militants reportedly fired one rocket from central Gaza towards Israel; the rocket dropped short and landed inside Gaza area. No injuries or damage were reported.
On 24 April, militants fired one test rocket from northern Gaza towards the sea. No injuries or damage were reported.
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.
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.