Gaza situation report 145

27 May 2016
© 2016 UNRWA Photo

17 May - 24 May 2016 | Issue 145

  • On 23 May the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) welcomed the decision to resume the private import of cement into Gaza. The suspension of private cement imports through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) lasted for nearly 45 days. The GRM is an essential tool for UNRWA’s self-help shelter repair and reconstruction programme which facilitates dual-use goods, like cement, for these repair and reconstruction works through private sector imports. Following the suspension, vendors asked UNRWA beneficiaries to pay NIS 1,800 per ton of cement, a more than three-fold increase of the price of 560 NIS per ton of cement prior to the suspension. This effectively prevented families from purchasing materials and forces the stoppage of their works; notwithstanding a three weeks’ worth of buffer stocks available in Gaza at the time of suspension according to the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS). The suspension stalled the overall pace of reconstruction in Gaza for projects that are using the GRM. It is anticipated that the situation will require time to calibrate once the suspension of cement imports by the private sector through the GRM is lifted.  UNRWA will resume the disbursement of first payments to eligible families recently cleared through the GRM once cement cost is again accessible at pre-suspension cost. During the suspension UNRWA continued to assist eligible families in the preparation of their documentation and to submit them to the GRM for clearance. The Palestinian Authority continued to upload families submitted by UNRWA to the system and UNRWA beneficiaries were being cleared by the Government of Israel.
  • On 23 and 24 May the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) took place in Istanbul.  For the first time in the 70-year history of the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has convened a World Humanitarian Summit. The United Nations Secretary-General has called for humanity—people’s safety, dignity and the right to thrive—to be placed at the heart of global decision-making. To achieve this, stakeholders need to act on five core responsibilities: prevent and end conflict, respect rules of war, leave no one behind, work differently to end need and invest in humanity. UNRWA’s contribution highlighted education as a major investment in dignity, human development and a measure of stability for Palestine refugees. Through education, UNRWA is able to look at young students not just as victims of conflict and injustice, but also actors of their own destiny, determined to make their contribution. UNRWA participation in the summit aims to give Palestine refugees themselves, particularly its youth, a platform to amplify their voice to bring attention to both their aspirations and their resourcefulness. One of those youths is Mohammed Al Kafarna, a Palestine refugee and ninth-grade student at the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Boys Prep school. Follow him in this 360 degree virtual reality clip as he walks home from school through Gaza scarred landscape. According to the UNRWA report Schools on the Front Line at least 83 UNRWA school buildings were damaged during the 2014 hostilities in Gaza and 90 school buildings were used as designated emergency shelters.
  • In April 2016, the Small and Medium Enterprise Training programme (SMET) delivered 7 training courses for 137 participants in "Training of Trainers" on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), "Financial Management", "Financial Auditing", "Strategic Planning", "Project Evaluation and Reporting" and "Effective Time Management and Communication". UNRWA Microfinance Department (MD) has been running the Small and Medium Enterprise Training programme since March 1995.  SMET aims to help business owners manage their businesses effectively and efficiently to ensure business survival, development and success. Through the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture, and through its customized training, the programme wants to enable small and micro-entrepreneurs to increase their profits and adjust business approaches within a continuously developing context. It also provides fresh graduates, university students and professionals with different technical training, some of which focus on "Job Hunting", "Project Management" and "Gender Awareness". SMET utilizes the expertise of a pool of 50 trainers to provide its training courses.  Since it was established in 1995 until April 2016, SMET has successfully delivered 1,172 courses for 25,292 participants, with an average participation rate of 22 trainees per course.
  • To celebrate International Day of the Midwife and International Nurses Day, UNRWA organized an event honouring the work and dedication of its midwives and nurses, on 19 May in north Gaza. The celebration took place over three weeks, during which small groups of midwives and nurses attended a training day on topics including updated medical protocols, child health, and counseling and communication skills. In total approximately 230 midwives and nurses attended a training day to exchange experiences and discuss lessons learned. UNRWA employs around 100 midwives, 174 practical nurses and 62 staff nurses working in 21 Health Centres across the Gaza Strip. Midwives work with women and their families, throughout the cycle of maternal health care, from preconception care (PCC), antenatal care (ANC), postnatal care (PNC) to family planning. Nurses work with families during the entire life cycle, providing support on out-patient primary health care. Their tasks are varied, from infant monitoring to follow-up on patients with non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.
  • Preparations for this year’s Summer Fun Weeks (SFW) are in full swing. The SFW will take place between 23 July and 11 August in over 120 different locations across the Gaza Strip, including installations that facilitate the participation of children with special needs. Registration forms have been distributed and currently around 140,000 students have already registered. The SFW include sports activities such as football and basketball as well as popular games like trampolines, slides or sack races. Other activities such as handicrafts and drawing will also be offered. This year, different areas will have an area specific theme. In the northern area of the Gaza Strip, around Beit Hanoun and Jabalia, the focus will be on mental health in children’s overall well-being, since this area was one of the most affected by the 2014 hostilities. Gaza city’s theme is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to raise awareness on the value of natural resources. In the Middle Area the spotlight will be on democracy and child parliaments. The children will have a chance to feel what it is like to be the United Nations Secretary-General, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA or the Director of UNRWA Operations during simulations of UN bodies and agencies. Khan Younis is going back to the roots exploring traditional Palestinian food and dabkah. In Rafah, southern Gaza, children will have their summer fun activities in English. They will be in contact with children across the globe to practice their language skills and exchange experiences. During the 2014 conflict, a total of 548 Palestinian children lost their lives and about 1,000 children were injured – some so badly that they will have to live the rest of their lives with disabilities. Thousands more were displaced. The unprecedented human, social and physical devastation during the July/August 2014 hostilities had thus a particular impact on children and many are still in need of psycho-social support. The UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks (SFW) are one of many efforts of the Agency to support refugee children’s psychosocial needs by providing them with a safe and fun place to play and the possibility to develop new friendships. But SFW will not only provide refugee children with a safe and fun place to play, it will also create approximately 2,200 short-term employment opportunities at the SFW as animators, location managers or cleaners through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme.
  • During one of his regular outreach activities to the Gaza community, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Mr. Bo Schack, met with frontline staff, including the principal of the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Girls B School, Ms. Fatma Abu-Shawish. During the meeting she proposed to start a pilot rooftop garden at the school. Currently the action plan and blueprints for the rooftop garden have been agreed upon by the stakeholders in the project, the UNRWA Chief Area Office - Middle Area, the school administration and the Maintenance Division in the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP). By the beginning of the new scholastic year, early September 2016, UNRWA is planning to inaugurate the garden. The garden would be maintained by the Agricultural Committee, formed by the school administration and including a number of the school’s 800 students. Gardening is a healthy way to release tension, it can help forge social bonds and teamwork, it offers an interactive opportunity for children to learn about nature and can contribute to the Gaza Strip’s urban agriculture. Land for agriculture is scarce in Gaza. Information from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) shows that the 2014 summer hostilities destroyed more than 16203 dunums or 16 square kilometres, of arable land, greenhouses and irrigation systems. Moreover many agricultural facilities are located in the high-risk, access-restricted area near the perimeter fence separating Gaza from Israel. According to the 2012 United Nations Country Team’s joint report, Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?, the population in Gaza will increase to 2.13 million people, reaching a population density of 5,835 people per square kilometre. In the current political and economic situation basic infrastructure has difficulty meeting the growing population’s needs for electricity, water and sanitation. This is also reflected in Gaza’s inability to grow its own food.
  • On 17 May 250,118 (128,594 boys and 121,524 girls) UNRWA school students from grade 1 to grade 9 began taking their 2015/16 second semester final tests. The tests lasted for eight days with the first test on Technology and Computer and the last test, on 25 May, on English Language. The exams are school-based in terms of observation, marking and data entry. All morning shift school students take the same test model on a subject, then all afternoon shift school students take another version of the test model and there is a third test model for the triple shift school students. Therefore, 153 models of second semester final tests in all school subjects were prepared and reviewed for accuracy and correctness. The Education Programme organized the tests according to well-prepared plans to guarantee a quiet and secure testing environment for students. Committees of the strategic support units’ coordinators and education specialists have monitored the smooth implementation process of the examinations. Students will begin their summer vacation immediately after the last test. The marking, reviewing and data entry will be done on 4 June and certificates will be distributed to students on 6 June. For those students who need extra support to pass Arabic and Mathematics, the Summer Learning Programme (SLP) will begin on 11 June. The SLP provides refugee children with an opportunity to catch up and move to the next grade level.
  • To gain a first-hand overview of the impact of Saudi funding on UNRWA construction projects and operations, on 23 May a delegation from the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) started their visit to the Gaza Strip. The delegation met with Ms Melinda Young, OiC Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, for a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the UNRWA response followed by a  visit to Al Azhar University construction site.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), generously contributed US$24.1 million for the construction of two buildings at the site. Given its technical expertise, UNRWA is fulfilling a supervisory role throughout the construction which began in September 2015. The next day, the delegation will be briefed and accompanied by UNDP, while on 25 May further field visits to Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia through SFD funded UNRWA installations are planned. The delegation will visit the recently completed UNRWA Jabalia Elementary Girls School and Gaza Co-ed and Preparatory B schools, which are currently under construction. Secondly, the delegation will visit two families at their shelters, one reconstructed and one repaired with support from UNRWA using funds received from the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia through SFD. Lastly the delegation will visit the Rafah re-housing project phase III. In March 2016, UNRWA completed the Rafah re-housing project, funded by the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia through SFD, with the finalization of its third phase. Phase III comprises 230 houses accommodating around 1,300 Palestine refugees. Since commencement, the project has provided more than 1,700 housing units for some 10,000 refugees. Through its three phases, the construction project has created more than 160,000 working days in the Gaza Strip for some10,000 labourers. Saudi Arabia has contributed more than US$ 500 million to UNRWA to date. Over the past three years, the Kingdom has become the Agency’s third largest donor. Since 2005, it has also been a valued member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission, which advises and assists the Commissioner-General in carrying out the Agency’s mandate.


Operational environment: During the reporting week, a number of protests and demonstrations took place across Gaza, predominantly to commemorate the 68th anniversary of Al Nakba*. Other demonstrations were held regarding financial entitlements for families of those killed or injured during the 2014 summer hostilities, remembering family members who were killed by Israeli forces during the 2014 hostilities, demanding accelerated trials for those accused of murder, protesting the closure of Rafah, the blockade, electricity shortages, in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, and in support of developments at Al Aqsa Mosque and in the West Bank. (see Summary of Major Incidents)

On 17 May, a fire reportedly broke out inside a workshop in Gaza city.  Local authorities rushed to the scene and controlled the situation. No injuries were reported.

On 18 May, a 4-year old child was reportedly found dead in a house in Jabalia camp. The police opened an investigation.

On 18 May, three unknown persons physically assaulted an UNRWA guard at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC), where the guard was beaten and moderately injured. He was transferred to the hospital for treatment.

On 18 May, a Palestinian man reportedly attempted to commit suicide and threatened to kill his daughter in Rafah city, southern Gaza. The police intervened and controlled the situation after arresting him.

On 19 May, a fire reportedly broke out in a house in Khan Younis area, southern Gaza due to cooking gas leakage.  Local authorities rushed to the scene and controlled the situation. No injuries were reported.

On 19 May, an explosion reportedly occurred in Deir al Balah; one person was reported as injured.

On 19 May, unknown persons reportedly burnt a vehicle in Khan Younis area, southern Gaza. The police opened an investigation.

On 21 May, a 7-year old boy of a displaced family reportedly died in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, after a metal door of a caravan fell on him.

On 22 May, a 35-year old person reportedly attempted to commit suicide and was injured. The police opened an investigation.

During the reporting period, one person with his two family members continued his sit-in in Gaza city for the 8th consecutive day demanding the re-payment of his salary which was cut by the Palestinian Authority in 2007. The sit-in is ongoing.

*’Nakba’ is the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’ and refers to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the accompanied displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

ERW Awareness in UNRWA Schools: Saving Children’s Lives
10-year-old Sali Hwihi, one of the children who participated in an ERW awareness session in the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Elementary co-ed A school in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam
10-year-old Sali Hwihi, one of the children who participated in an ERW awareness session in the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Elementary co-ed A school in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

More than 21 months after the 2014 conflict people in the Gaza strip still face the risk of Explosive Remnant of War (ERW). At th More than 21 months after the 2014 conflict people in the Gaza Strip still face the risk of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). At the beginning of 2016, according to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), 16 people had been killed and 97 injured, including 48 children, due to contact with ERWs since the 2014 conflict. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states in the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview “the entire Palestinian population, including at least 900,000 children, is exposed to the dangers of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) following the recent escalation of conflict. Children are especially vulnerable when they play in conflict affected areas.”

The ERW risk education project is one of UNRWA’s outreach activities on safety and risk education. It is implemented by the UNRWA Safety and Security Division (SSD) with technical support from UNMAS. All 257 UNRWA schools participated in the project, and every school nominated at least three teachers for the Training of Trainers (ToT). Each teacher passes the experience and skills from the training on to the other teachers in the school who conduct awareness sessions with the students.

Ten-year old Sali Hwihi a student in the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Elementary co-ed A School is one of the children who participated in these awareness sessions. Sali said “In the session I learned many good things I had never heard about before. For example I learned what ERW is, what the different types of ERW are and who to contact when I see ERW.” Sali also commented “because of the conflict many places were attacked and Beit Hanoun is one of these, so all children here face the risks of ERW.”

Sali lives in Beit Hanoun which is considered one of the most affected areas in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict. After the 2014 summer hostilities more than 7,000 ERW are estimated to remain in the Gaza Strip. Although in January 2016, over 40 per cent of ERW had been identified and destroyed, the remaining ERW continue to pose a threat to the population living in Gaza, particularly to children who play in conflict-affected areas and adults who work on agricultural land potentially contaminated by ERW.

“I got the information from my teacher and then I went and taught my brothers, sisters and my parents. I want to ensure all people around me know about the risk of ERW, because people can die, get injured or get a disability because of it,” Sali recalled.

The ERW risk education sessions started on 7 March and are still ongoing. Until now 32 sessions have been conducted and 726 teachers (313 men and 413 women) were trained on different topics such as the definition of ERW, their shapes, sizes and types such as unexploded ordnance (UXO) and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO), mines (anti-tanks and anti-personal), dangerous places and signs of ERW presence, hazards and effects of ERW and safety and security procedures around ERW.

Sali also said “After I participated in the session, I wanted to know more so I went and looked for more information on the internet. When children play, they go everywhere so it’s important to know about ERW.”

UNRWA also provides this training opportunity to its other staff, especially those working on the front line, including social workers and engineers. In addition, the UNRWA satellite channel (UNRWA TV) produced short films to raise awareness on the correct procedures for identifying and safely responding to ERW contaminations. The educational films are broadcasted on UNRWA TV and on YouTube, benefiting also millions of people at risk outside of Gaza.

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 18 May, one injury was reported near the perimeter fence east of Karni, south of Gaza city. On 17 May, two Palestinian fishermen were reportedly arrested and on 22 May, ten Palestinian fishermen were reportedly arrested and their boat confiscated by Israeli forces.

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 100 persons, predominately youth, took place east of Bureij camp in central Gaza and east of Gaza city. 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 two Palestinians were injured as a result.

On 19 May militants reportedly fired two rockets from Khan Younis, southern Gaza, towards the sea. No injuries were reported.

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. 

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 17 to 20 and from 22 to 24 May. It was closed on 21 May.
  • 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 17 to 20 and from 22 to 24 May. It was closed on 21 May.