Gaza Situation Report 49

27 August 2014
Gaza Situation Report 49

26 August 2014 | Issue No. 49


  • The Gaza population is terrified as the Israeli Air Force (IAF) continues to destroy selected residential and commercial properties across the Gaza Strip and in the heart of the coastal enclave, Gaza City. The strikes follow warnings through leaflets, text messages or phone calls, some of them pre-recorded, others reportedly sent from mobile phone numbers abroad, to Gaza residents, just minutes before an attack. Gazans do not know whether a text message is a hoax, an immediate threat to their life, loved ones, or home, or a general warning. The psychological impact of this practice is enormous. There are no sirens and no bunkers for civilians, and there is nowhere safe to run with the potential exception of UN facilities. Last night, thirteen and fourteen floor towers in Gaza City were attacked and completely destroyed. In the middle of the night, hundreds of panicked residents from towers across from UNRWA’s main office in Gaza city crowded into the yard of the Agency’s technical college adjacent to the compound, hoping this would provide them some enhanced degree of protection. For civilians and humanitarian workers in Gaza City right now the situation is more dangerous than at any time in the past fifty days, with missiles strikes on vehicles taking place without warning right outside buildings including the UNRWA compound. Yesterday afternoon, a suspected drone strike impacted on the street 30 meters from the UNRWA guards at the main gate. One distribution center in Gaza City was closed after airstrikes in the near vicinity. The UNRWA guard, who is there to protect the distribution center and to ensure neutrality of UN installations, fell over taking cover and sustained severe injuries on his back. Over the course of the past 24 hours and according to initial reports, some 9 Palestinians were killed and 74 injured, and one Palestinian died of his wounds sustained during previous days of conflict. Reportedly, there were 69 rockets and 79 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 128 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza. 155 tank shells were fired from the fence into populated areas. Reportedly, 25 houses in Gaza were bombarded.
  • On the occasion of the launch of the 3rd revision of the UNRWA flash appeal, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said the return to widespread violence following the recent collapse of ceasefire talks was an overwhelming tragedy for civilians in Gaza. He said: “We call on the international community to help us ensure that all affected families receive the necessary support and dignified living conditions in the midst of the tragedy caused by this conflict". In the revised flash appeal, UNRWA is seeking a total of US$ 295.4 million as the increasing scale of the crisis means that more civilians are relying on UNRWA for help. Civilians caught in the ongoing violence need help to meet their immediate needs, and to support the long path to recovery that will begin when hostilities cease. The most immediate needs include the continued provision of water, food and non-food items such as hygiene kits that help prevent the outbreak of diseases. Other priorities include primary health care and psychosocial support. Almost all families in Gaza are coping with grief – including many cases in which multiple members of the same family have been killed. Extreme and continuous levels of violence have caused deep levels of fear in the population of Gaza. An emerging priority is emergency education activities. It has been impossible for children to begin their 2014/2015 school year on 24 August due to the use of UNRWA schools as shelters. It will take time and resources to return to a formal education environment. In the meantime UNRWA is implementing alternative teaching methods using new technology, the UNRWA satellite TV channel and self-learning materials. Funds from the flash appeal will also allow UNRWA to begin early recovery efforts as soon as hostilities cease. More than 20,000 homes are estimated to have been rendered uninhabitable. Vital water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged, with at least 40 per cent of the water supply network unusable as of 22 August. With the continuation of violence, further damage is expected.
  • UNRWA is coordinating with the Ministry of Education on its three phase education plan. The first phase expands ongoing psychosocial activities; the second phase involves enhancing learning skills; and the third phase will be a return to education in school buildings. With emergency education in its first phase and psychosocial activities ongoing, the Education Department is finalizing data collection to group children according to age. The first group (for children in lower elementary school, grades 1 to 3) will start their education in the computer labs of the schools based on material developed under the Agency’s Integrated Learning Programme (ILP). Prior to the military escalation, ILP classes aimed to encourage and improve students’ educational performance through interactive computer programs. The program was developed to target students who are exhibiting signs of learning difficulties in lower elementary school, to help close gaps, instill confidence and prepare the students for greater academic achievement. With some 900 staff working in the shelters as, for example, shelter managers, additional teachers will need to be hired under the Agency’s Job Creation Programme to provide quality education under these very challenging circumstances. The other 4 groups will largely benefit from UNRWA TV which provides some 16 hours of educational programming per day, including in Arabic and Mathematics, with a focus on literacy and numeracy. Technical equipment, including sheds, monitors and flash drives are under procurement, as the schools are not connected to Nilesat. The Education Programme is further working on self-learning materials which has been used successfully in the Syria crisis context. The material requires adaptation to the Gaza context but work on this has been severely impacted by the deteriorating security situation as staff movements are largely suspended. Staff cannot work from home, as Gaza households only have a maximum of six hours of electricity per day.
  • As of last night, 289,109 IDPs took refuge in 85 UNRWA schools. The total number of IDPs supported by UNRWA increased to 324,122, including 35,013 IDPs sheltered in government facilities.


Past 24 hours: There are still no indications the escalation will come to an end anytime soon


The Sulafa Embroidery Project was established in 1950 as an income generating project of UNRWA's Relief and Social Services Program. Sulafa produces embroidered goods for sale locally and internationally, preserving part of Palestine's artisanal culture. Several hundred women receive orders through Sulafa, and are provided with materials and ongoing training through local women's centers before completing their work at home. 

This year, Sulafa began a process of business development to align its operations more closely with social enterprise trends. With an international design consultant, Sulafa's embroiderers began work on a new product line for the prestigious New York International Gift Fair, August 16 - 19.  Sulafa purchased special components which were imported for the show, but were unable to enter Gaza in time due to the blockade. Before the samples could be completed, Sulafa's operations were suspended by conflict, and Sulafa's shop, which is located within a school complex in Gaza City turned into one of many UNRWA emergency shelters. 

With UNRWA support, Sumayya Abu Auda, the Sulafa Embroidery Supervisor with 20 years of experience, was supposed to leave the sealed off Gaza Strip to attend the New York trade show. Due to the military escalation she could not leave the Gaza Strip, as the only functioning border crossing with Israel was closed even for the few lucky ones with a special permit. “Losing the opportunity to travel to New York for the trade show made me so sad. We worked so hard to prepare for the event to represent all the women from Gaza who worked tirelessly to promote our Sulafa Embroidery project”, she said. “For us from Gaza, participating in a New York show is a unique opportunity. We adapted the design of our products so that they reflect the Palestinian tradition but at the same time appeal to New York customers.”

The Poverty Alleviation Fund (TPAF), a small donor with a long relationship with Sulafa, stepped in to salvage the opportunity. Moving quickly during one of the many temporary ceasefires, Sumayya Abu Auda slipped into the shop and brought all of the available samples to an international UNRWA staff member who was due to travel home. “I was determined to support my colleague who traveled instead of me. Despite mourning one of my relatives who lost his life in the war, I went to Sulafa with my 21 year old daughter who helped me collect the samples for New York.” The UNRWA international staff member carried the samples by hand to New York, where TPAF and a network of supporters conceived a simple, striking display which they staffed throughout the show.

The market's response to Sulafa's presentation exceeded expectations. Sulafa earned commercial sales, orders, many enquiries about doing business in Gaza, and further offers of representation at industry events through the autumn. 

With 64 years of experience, Sulafa is preparing to emerge from the present conflict with a presence in a new market to provide employment to more Palestine refugee women.

  • UNRWA delivered 17 truckloads of non food items as well as 61 truckloads of food to shelters in cooperation with WFP.
  • In partnership with WFP and the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNRWA continued the exceptional food distribution to all families not currently receiving regular food aid from the two agencies. Since 11 August 103,347 of the eligible 143,000 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice, representing 72 per cent of the total eligible families. On 25 August, 3,985 rations were distributed yesterday in all open UNRWA distribution centres.
  • UNRWA’s regular food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. Food rations were provided to 3,913 families through UNRWA distribution centers.
  • UNRWA also continued to provide its logistics capacity to supply fuel to municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities through the WASH and Health clusters (led by UNICEF and WHO). 41,600 liters were delivered to UNICEF for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and 40,000 liters were provided to WHO.
  • UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued increasing daily water distributions to shelters. 1,257 cubic metres of potable water were trucked yesterday, and potable water distribution was on average 3.9 litres per person per day. In addition to drinking water, 1,121 cubic metres of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters as wells and/or water network supply is insufficient. 
  • UNRWA’s hygiene and water campaign is ongoing in the UNRWA designated emergency shelters, with 176 IDP committees (including at minimum 2 women, 2 men and 4 youth of which two girls and two boys) established with overall 1,633 members in 84 shelters. Hygiene focal points and facilitators have organized 865 awareness sessions for 50,595 IDPs focusing on cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water use, how to keep food from being contaminated and how to treat lice and scabies.  So far, over 41,000 IDPs have taken part in cleaning campaigns. Three shelters are working specifically with children, focusing on personal hygiene and dental care. In Khan Younis, committees are focusing on the reuse of old water canisters for garbage collection. Additional facilitators will be recruited and continuous work is taking place to ensure good standards are kept or improved as necessary and that IDPs take ownership of cleanliness in their overcrowded shelters. The deteriorating security situation, however, largely prevents movement of staff working on the campaign.
  • Of UNRWA’s Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme, 285 staff, representing 84 per cent of the permanent sanitation staff, reported to work. Together with 389 Palestinians employed under the Job Creation Programme (JCP), they removed a total of 329 tonnes of waste from all Gaza camps. The 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied a total of 12,360 cubic meters of water. UNRWA maintenance staff continue to undertake critical repair work in UNRWA installations.
  • 14 of 21 health centers were operating. 86 per cent of the staff reported to work, and 16,223 patients were served on 25 August. 


Reportedly, there were 69 rockets and 79 mortar shells fired towards Israel. There were also reports that 128 air-to-ground missiles were fired into Gaza. 155 tank shells were fired from the fence into populated areas. Reportedly, 25 houses in Gaza were bombarded.


Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 110 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014. 


More information on the revised flash appeal can be found here.


  • The Rafah crossing was open for humanitarian cases and international visa holders.
  • The Erez crossing was closed for humanitarian cases and international staff.
  • The Kerem Shalom crossing was open. 

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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