Gaza Situation Report 187
21 March – 28 March 2017 | issue 187
- In order to meet Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territories, three cartoonists from Switzerland visited Beach Camp – one of the largest and most crowded of the eight refugee camps in Gaza - on 23 March 2017. After hearing about their experiences of life in Gaza from members of the community at Beach Health Centre, the artists met with members of the school parliament at Asmaa Preparatory Girls School. They also visited a Palestine refugee family to learn about the challenges of daily life in Gaza which has been under a tight land and sea blockade for almost ten years. Coupled with recurrent escalations of violence and the socio-economic decline, the blockade has devastating consequences on all aspects of life for Palestinians in the coastal enclave. To facilitate sharing of knowledge and experience with aspiring cartoonists in Gaza, UNRWA organised a drawing workshop at a community-based organisation in Gaza. A group of 20 young women who had participated in an UNRWA comic drawing training in February, thus had an opportunity to show the cartoonists their drawings and share knowledge and experience. The group of artists also traveled to Israel where they met with asylum-seekers as part of their project to learn more about the lifes, hopes and dreams of refugees and asylum-seekers.
- On 24 March 2017, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, gave one of his regular briefings to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. Mr. Mladenov focused his briefing on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2334 commenting that ‘none of the developments on the ground can be divorced from the broader context in which they are happening” which, he said, are the stalled peace process, a lack of dialogue and increased radicalisation. In his briefing, the Special Coordinator noted that there has been an increase in the import of building materials through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). Yet, at the same time, the import of other materials badly needed for humanitarian and development efforts in the coastal enclave but considered dual-use by Israel continues to be ‘a major obstacle, Mr. Mladenov commented. UNRWA depends on the GRM for its self-help shelter programme to rebuild homes destroyed during the 2014 hostilities. In addition, UNRWA coordinates material imports for dozens of UNRWA infrastructure projects addressing some of the most pressing human development needs of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip.
- In order to empower Palestine refugee children and provide them with the opportunity to engage in social and sports activities, UNRWA has been partnering with the Real Madrid Foundation since 2011 for a project that offers football training to Palestine refugee girls and boys in Gaza. In the 2016/2017 school year, the project is implemented in 15 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip, including eight schools for girls and seven schools for boys, and welcomes 580 students. Children are trained twice a week by 15 UNRWA Physical Education teachers who have previously been trained by staff of the Real Madrid Foundation. The project responds to the need of children in Gaza – where space and opportunity for exercise and play is often at a premium - to play and be physically active in a safe and carefree environment and to overcome the trauma and distress caused by recurrent conflict and blockade. Through their participation in regional and international tournaments, the boys have been given the opportunity to socialize with peers from around the world and exchange knowledge and experience with teams and football players in other countries. UNRWA is aiming to have girls travel abroad too for the first time this year. Furthermore, by enabling girls to play football, the project helps to break stereotypes and encourages sports activities for women.
- In order to get a first-hand impression of UNRWA programmes and operations, a delegation of the Andalusian Agency for International Cooperation and Development conducted a two-day field visit to Gaza on the 22 and 23 of March. The delegation was composed of Ms. Carmen Tapies Gonzalez, Head of the Humanitarian Aid and Emergency Response Department, Mr. Ernesto Doval Rojas, Humanitarian Action Officer accompanied by a representative of UNRWA Spain National Committee, Ms. Lorena Gamito. The delegation learned about key UNRWA programmes during visits to Beit Hanoun Elem Coed A/D School, Rawfed Association for Social Development – a CBO UNRWA partners with -, Nuseirat Distribution Centre, Rimal Health Centre and the Gaza Training Centre in addition to receiving a general briefing by Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations, David De Bold. The delegation also met a refugee family whose house has been repaired with UNRWA support after it was damaged in the 2014 conflict.
- To spread positive messages, colour and hope among students and staff in Gaza, over the past six months approximately 190 young Palestinian artists have painted the internal walls of 70 UNRWA installations across Gaza including newly-constructed UNRWA schools but also the Agency’s Gaza Field Office. The mural-drawing activity continues a joint project of the Maintenance Division of the UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) and the Education Programme implemented in summer 2016 which saw young creative painters decorate the external walls of UNRWA installations to add visual beauty to life in Gaza. Like its predecessor, the mural painting activity makes an important contribution to mitigating high unemployment in Gaza: all of the artists are hired through the Agency’s Job Creation Programme (JCP), which provides short-term employment opportunities of between three to six months for unskilled workers and opportunities of up to one year for skilled workers. The murals cover a variety of topics including landscape and nature themes as well as UNRWA services such as camp improvement, education, health and relief and social services. A short film on the mural painting activity that took place last year – titled ‘Colours for Gaza’ and produced by UNRWA TV - can be viewed here.
- On 24 March unknown assailants killed a 38-year old Palestinian senior militant west of Gaza City. The motive behind the incident is not confirmed. The police opened an investigation. Linked to the killing, on 26 March, the de-facto authorities limited movement from and to Gaza by closing the 4/4 checkpoint on the Gaza side of Erez crossing. On the same day, Israeli authorities moved to close Erez crossing after security forces of the de-facto authorities took over the Palestinian Authority Liaison Office at 5/5 checkpoint on the Gaza side of Erez crossing. The crossing reopened on 27 March however 4/4 checkpoint is only partially open for movement in both directions.
During the week under review, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinian areas along the perimeter fence and/or towards Palestinian boats on a daily basis, except on 27 March. One Palestinian was killed and two injured.
Civilians, mostly youth, staged protests near the perimeter fence in different areas of Gaza to express their eagerness to defend Al Aqsa Mosque and in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Palestinians in Israeli prisons. When some of them approached the fence and threw stones towards Israeli observation posts, Israeli forces responded with gunfire and teargas. No injuries were reported. Other protests that took place included those in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, those in support of ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf and in protest to the UN Secretary-General’s position on the ESCWA report, on the UNRWA curriculum materials and regarding the reconstruction process.
During the week under review, two fires broke out, one each in a shop and a factory. The Civil Defence dealt with the fires. While severe damage was incurred in one instance, no injuries were reported. A Palestinian male was injured by a stray bullet of unknown source.
During the reporting week, four Israeli bulldozers entered approximately 50 metres from the security fence. The Israeli troops conducted a clearing and excavation operation. They withdrew on the same day.
One Palestinian was arrested by Israeli forces after entering Israel through the perimeter fence. Two fishermen were arrested by Israeli forces and their boat confiscated.
Exploring the hopes, dreams and lives of Palestine refugees:
Swiss cartoonists’ visit Gaza
On 23 March UNRWA facilitated by the office of the Swiss Development Cooperation in Jerusalem organised a cartoon drawing workshop at Al-Khrijat, a community-based organisation in Gaza City, for young and aspiring female artists. The workshop was led by Thierry Barrigue, Nicolas Sjöstedt and Pierre-Olivier Comment, three professional cartoonists from Switzerland.
Young artists in Gaza suffer from the limitations and restrictions imposed by the blockade. They face difficulties exchanging experiences with peers, traveling abroad for training or studies or because of their families’ concern that it is difficult to earn an income through art while the socio-economic situation is already very dire in Gaza. Yet art is an important medium to express feelings, dreams and fears. The workshop provided aspiring Gaza artists with an opportunity to learn from accomplished professionals. In turn learning about the experiences and motivations of their Gaza counterparts was a source of inspiration for the visitors.
“We are used to hearing about Palestine refugees on television, but today we meet them personally, and when we will go back to our country, we will talk to people about how you live, about your suffering, but also about your dreams and hopes,” said Thierry Barrigue, one of the Swiss cartoonists, to the Palestine refugees they met during their visit.
The workshop took place at Al-Khrijat community-based organisation and involved 20 young women from all areas of the Gaza Strip. They had previously participated in a comic drawing training organized by the UNRWA Gaza Communications Department in cooperation with Community-Based Organisations in Gaza city. The one-month training took place in February and focused on topics such as early marriage and gender-based violence. Comic drawing is a form of story-telling, through which UNRWA attempts to empower and provide participants (directly affected or others) with a platform and a voice to advocate for change and support inside their community and beyond.
“The inspiration for my drawing came from my live. I like to draw but my family prevented me from studying art in the university because they think that it is hard to find a job in the field of art in Gaza. So I drew how I felt about this. There are many sensitive topics which we cannot talk about, such as early marriage or gender-based violence. It is therefore easier to draw about it”, said 19-year-old Sarah Al-Ramlawi during the meeting with the Swiss cartoonists.
The lively exchange enabled young female talents in Gaza to discuss the meaning and messages of their art work while exchanging experiences and challenges encountered with experienced cartoonists.
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. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget in 2017. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
Following the 2014 conflict, US$ 257 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$ 463 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 2017, the Agency is seeking US$ 402 million to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees in the oPt.
The Gaza portion of the Emergency Appeal amounts to US$ 355 million for 2017, to address protracted, large scale humanitarian needs. More information can be found here.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.9 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 travellers, 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 travellers, 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 was closed during the reporting week.
- Erez crossing is usually open six days a week. This week it was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and international staff from 21-24 March (for emergency medical cases only on 24 March). It was closed on 25 and 26 March.
- 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 on 21-23 and 26-27 March and closed 24-25 March.
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