Gaza situation report 146
24 May – 31 May 2016 | Issue 146
- On 30 May, the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC) in Gaza city opened its “photo and story” exhibition in the GTC’s conference hall, displaying the work of the Centre’s first year graphic design students, as produced during the scholastic year 2015-2016. A total of 21 male and female students participated, exhibiting drawings and designs - ranging from paintings, cups, collages, to brochures and lino cut printings - with each design product aiming at telling a story. The UNRWA GTC was established in 1953 with a view to providing young refugees with skills-based training and assisting them in finding meaningful employment opportunities, increasing their chances in the local job market and helping develop the local economy. The Agency also maintains a second Vocational Training Centre in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, and to date, more than 21,000 students have completed the UNRWA Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme; UNRWA also introduced an initiative to provide the most vulnerable students in Gaza with TVET opportunities. Courses include plastering, tiling, carpentry, early childhood care, website development, graphic design and photography, and media production. Currently the Agency provides training opportunities for a total of 1,685 youth in its two vocational training centres; 524 of the youth are female and 1,161 are male.
- During the World Humanitarian Summit which took place from 23 to 24 May in Istanbul, Turkey, UNRWA, together with other international organizations such as War Child, the Global Campaign for Education, TheirWorld, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the Jesuit Refugee Service, organized a side event discussing the topic “Delivering Quality Education in Emergencies: What Needs to be Done?” to raise awareness about the scale and impact of attacks against students, educational facilities and staff during armed conflict. The discussion was also a lead-in to the one-year anniversary of the adoption (27 May) of the Safe School Declaration to protect education in armed conflict. To date, 53 countries have endorsed the declaration, supporting the use of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict and committing to making every effort to collect reliable data on attacks on education, and support humanitarian programming that promotes the continuation of education in emergencies. In the past five years, 692 UNRWA schools in all of its five fields have been impacted, attacked or otherwise rendered inoperable by conflict or violence; 302 schools have been directly affected. During the 2014 conflict in Gaza, 83 schools were damaged, including seven schools used as designated emergency shelters for internally displaced families that were directly hit during the conflict, as the UN Independent Mission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict reported. UNRWA sees education as a major investment in dignity, human development and a measure of stability for Palestine refugees who represent 40 per cent of those in the world’s protracted refugee situation. The Education Programme in Gaza is UNRWA’s largest and despite the fragile situation, lack of infrastructure and financial constraints, the Agency successfully managed to integrate 10,000 new students in the 2015/2016 scholastic year in its 257 schools across Gaza. Further, through its Gaza-based UNRWA TV satellite and You Tube channel and its innovative Education in Emergencies’ programmes the Agency delivers classes, including interactive distance-learning modules, to tens of thousands of refugee children across the Middle East.
- To raise awareness on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and provide refugee families and individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills on how to prevent GBV at home or in the community, during April and May 2016 the UNRWA Gender Initiative (GI), in cooperation with Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), organized 30 GBV discussion groups in CBOs across Gaza. A total of 187 women, 187 men and 152 youth participated in the sessions. To actively engage the community in the GBV prevention and response, following the discussions groups, women who participated in the sessions were asked to form groups and submit proposals for concrete activities to prevent GBV. Five of the ten submitted proposals were selected for implementation, and the five groups consisting of 38 women were equipped with a small grant to implement their community initiatives; activities included community outreach sessions, the establishment of blogs with information on GBV, social media campaigns, theatre plays and a GBV art exhibition. UNRWA supports the development and empowerment of women through various programmes, particularly through its GI. Out of the 101 CBOs the GI works with through its various projects, 30 CBOs across Gaza provide social and recreational spaces for women such as information technology, sport, and educational forums. Besides these activities, the CBOs are also seen as friendly and safe spaces for women, many of whom feel empowered by doing activities outside their home, establishing networks, participating in public life and taking matters into their own hands.
- In a statement released on 25 May, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned the Security Council in New York that circumstances on the ground in Israel and Palestine continue to deteriorate, lamenting that the disappearance of a negotiated two-state solution has become a “default narrative” for many. Noting that in a few days several countries as well as the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will come together in Paris to reaffirm their commitment to negotiations, he stated that the will to advance towards peace clearly exists despite the “glaring” absence of “political will and bold leadership.” Referring to Gaza, he mentioned that the beginning of May saw the biggest escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 conflict, underscoring the fragility of the security dynamics on the ground, particularly the threat to the ceasefire in Gaza, which needs to be vigorously upheld by all sides “if we are to avoid slipping into another devastating conflict,” the envoy said. He also called on the international community not to fail the Palestinians in Gaza and take up their responsibility to help them recover from the physical and emotional traumas of war, and assisting them in rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, and ultimately see Gaza and the West Bank united and the blockade lifted. “Unless radically more is done to address the chronic realities in Gaza, it is not a question of 'if', but 'when' another escalation will take place,” he stated. The blockade on Gaza enters its tenth year in June 2016, continuing to impose severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the coastal enclave, creating devastating socio-economic conditions and feelings of confinement, insecurity, hopelessness and frustration.
- UNRWA continues to distribute its new and improved food baskets in the second annual food distribution round this year; the round started in April 2016 and to date almost 933,000 refugees, or approximately 177,000 families, have benefited from the distribution which will last until the end of June 2016. 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. To explain the new and improved food baskets to its beneficiaries in detail, in the beginning of 2016 UNRWA launched an extensive communications outreach campaign, including the production of an animation video which is broadcast on UNRWA TV and its associated YouTube channel and can be viewed here. To provide refugees with innovative ideas on how to use the items in the new food baskets for healthy and creative meals, the Agency also produced a cooking show which will be broadcast in the coming weeks. With its quarterly food assistance, UNRWA supports Sustainable Development Goal number two – zero hunger. The number of beneficiaries who receive UNRWA food assistance has dramatically increased over the years due to deteriorating socio-economic conditions in Gaza, many of which are related to the Israeli blockade which entered 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.
- The humanitarian situation in Gaza and the work of UNRWA continue to raise the interest of the international community, including journalists, politicians and donors. On 25 May, Basque Senator Jokin Bildarratz Sorron visited UNRWA in Gaza to familiarise himself with the situation on the ground and UNRWA’s response in terms of education, shelter, food distribution and the Agency’s support for women and Palestinian refugee youth. The Basque senator visited one of the 12 UNRWA food distribution centres across the Gaza Strip, the UNRWA Gaza Technical and Vocational Training Centre in Gaza city as well as the UNRWA supported Community-Based Organization Forsan Association for Future Youth where he attended discussion group on the prevention of Gender-Based Violence. He was also briefed by Ms Melinda Young, Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations, on the Agency’s overall programmes and services.
- On 30 and 31 May, UNRWA’s Advisory Commission (AdCom) met in Amman, Jordan, to discuss key challenges and opportunities in the Agency’s five fields of operation. “To put it simply, the challenges we are addressing require extraordinary resolve because field realities are truly dramatic, the distress of refugees high, and our organization as a whole must commit much energy to address the growing needs,” stated the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl in his opening remarks. Mr. David de Bold, Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, briefed the Commission on the current operational context in the Gaza Strip where recurrent conflict, restrictions related to almost ten years of blockade, political uncertainty, dilapidated public infrastructure and a devastated economy continue to form the backdrop of life for 1.8 million people, 1.3 of them Palestine refugees. He updated on the shelter repair and reconstruction programme, the new nutritionally improved food baskets, the Agency’s emergency preparedness measures and the status of UNRWA-led construction projects. Consisting of five members when it was first created, today the AdCom is made up of 27 Members and three Observers. It is currently being chaired by Syria and Switzerland. It meets twice a year, usually in May/June and November, to advise and assist the Commissioner-General in carrying out the UNRWA mandate.
Operational environment: Regular protests took place during the reporting week, predominantly with protestors demanding the payment of their salaries from the Palestinian Authority, the creation of job opportunities, the end of internal Palestinian divisions or in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails. Demonstrations were also held to demand housing or financial compensation from UNRWA.
On 25 May, a brawl allegedly erupted between two street traders who worked near the UNRWA Nuseirat and Bureij Food Distribution Centre (DC) in central Gaza. The DC was temporarily closed after 10 family members of one trader chased the other trader through the streets and through the DC’s back gate. Operations resumed after the traders had left the scene.
On 27 May a 52-year old Palestinian male was reportedly found killed with a knife in his house in southern Gaza. The police opened an investigation.
On 29 May, a beneficiary threatened an UNRWA staff member in the Bani Suhaila Food Distribution Centre (DC) in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, using his pistol outside UNRWA premises after an altercation happened between him and the acting DC supervisor regarding the delivery of food assistance to the beneficiary on behalf of his father. No damages or injuries were reported.
On 26 May, one person reportedly died due to an electrical shock received in a hotel in southern Gaza.
On 30 June a fire broke out in a house in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, reportedly due to the misuse of candles. The house sustained damage but no injuries were reported.
“The creative side of Gaza”: The UNRWA Gaza Training Centre displays the work of its graphic design students
Unemployment in Gaza has been consistently high over the past two years, and the Gaza 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 vocational and technical training for youth refugees to provide them with technical and soft skills and knowledge to increase their chances in the competitive Gaza job market.
On 30 May 2016, the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC) in Gaza city opened its “photo and story” exhibition in the GTC’s conference hall, showing the work of the centre’s first year graphic design students during the scholastic year 2015-2016.
19-Year-old student Doa’a Foujo participated in the exhibition with her design product titled “Just a dream.”
“I wanted to participate to break my fear of showing and displaying my work and introducing and presenting myself to others,” Doa’a explained. “It is the first time I have participated in an exhibition and I feel excited to show my design to my friends, family and teachers,” she added.
A total of 21 male and female students participated, exhibiting drawings and designs - ranging from paintings, cups, collages, to brochures or wood cut printings - with each product aiming at telling a story.
With the exhibition, the UNRWA GTC also attempted to show the other face of Gaza: “Gaza is not all only about conflict and poverty; there are many creative people living in the enclave, particularly youth and we provide them with an opportunity to express themselves,” explained Mohammed Al Halabi, the technical instructor of the GTC graphic design course.
The UNRWA GTC was established in 1953 with a view to provide youth refugees with skills-based training and assist them in finding meaningful employment opportunities, increase their chances in the local job market and help develop the local economy.
Doa’a clearly sees her graphic design training as an opportunity to increase her chances to find employment. “Gaza has been living under a blockade for almost ten years, and job opportunities are rare; I chose to study graphic design because salaries for graphic designers tend to be high, and it is easier to find work as graphic designer than in other sectors because basically everything in our daily life is design, and I will also be able to work via the Internet,” she said, and added: “I hope my designs will reach the world.”
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 27 May, a Palestinian boat in northern Gaza sustained damage in one such incident.
On 27 May, approximately 50 civilians, including youth, held a protest near the perimeter fence east of Bureij camp in central Gaza, expressing their eagerness to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. During the protest some participants approached the perimeter fence and reportedly threw stones towards Israeli observation posts. Israeli security forces reportedly responded with tear gas. No injuries were reported.
On 24 May, militants reportedly fired one rocket from central Gaza towards Israel; the rocket reportedly dropped short and landed inside Gaza area. Another rocket reportedly exploded at the launching site. No injuries were reported.
On 25 May, militants reportedly fired four rockets from central Gaza towards Israel; three of them reportedly dropped short and landed inside Gaza area and the fourth reportedly landed in an open area in Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council in Israel. No injuries were reported.
On 26 May, the Israeli Air Force reportedly fired one missile targeting a Hamas military site, west of central Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 26 May, the Israeli Air Force reportedly fired three missiles targeting two Hamas military sites west of southern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
On 27 May, militants reportedly fired two rockets from northern Gaza towards Israel; the rockets reportedly dropped short and landed inside Gaza. No injuries were reported. On the same day militants reportedly fired one rocket from central Gaza towards Israel; the rocket reportedly dropped short and landed inside Gaza , no injuries were reported.
On 29 May, militants reportedly fired three test rockets from southern Gaza towards the sea. No injuries or damage were reported.
On 30 May, two Israeli tanks and five bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 100 metres into Khuza’a in southern Gaza, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They reportedly withdrew on the same day. On the same day two Israeli tanks and five bulldozers reportedly entered 100 metres into Rafah, southern Gaza, reportedly to conduct a clearing and excavation operation. They reportedly 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$ 74 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 24 to 26 May and from 29 to 31 May. On 27 May it was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 28 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 24 to 26 May and from 29 to 31 May. It was closed on 27 and 27 May.
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