14 January - 20 January | Issue 76
Operational environment: The security situation in Gaza remains unpredictable and politically unstable. The testing of rockets continued and there were a number of local protests and demonstrations reported. The cold weather is perpetuating the already difficult conditions faced by Palestine refugee families in Gaza. The challenges for the Palestinian government, formally in place since 2 June, remain huge, and include payments to former de facto government staff who have not seen full salaries for over one year. Whilst Palestinian Authority (PA) staff was regularly paid until November, it is reported that only sixty per cent of the December PA salaries were paid on 19 January, with 100 per cent of PA retirement salaries expected to be paid on the 20th.
Civil unrest and demonstrations involving extreme groups continue to be of concern in the Gaza Strip. On 19 January, a rally organized by Salafi Jihadi members “The Salafist Youth Al Mujahid” organized a march in support of the Prophet Mohammad. Reportedly, the aim of this activity was to march in solidarity and to condemn the recent cartoons which were published in France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine, as well as condemning any other western journalists or publications that had published pictures portraying the Prophet. The march is understood to have been conducted with the approval of the Ministry of Interior, and finished at the French Cultural Centre (FCC) where there was a sit in. During the march and also at the FCC, numerous ISIS flags were raised. At the FCC it is also reported that the French Flag was burned and pro-ISIS slogans were chanted. Persons involved in the sit-in began throwing stones towards the FCC and police intervened, firing warning shots and making six arrests. The march followed the spraying of graffiti on the FCC external walls, in protest of the same cartoons.
During the reporting week, other demonstrations included the National Committee Against the Siege holding a sit-in inside Gaza Harbour, protesting against the closure of Rafah Crossing and requesting a waterway between Gaza and the outside world. A sit-on at the Harbour was also held on 15 January, with students protesting against the closure of Rafah crossing. On 19 January, unknown persons blew up a car parked in Gaza City allegedly belonging to a senior employee of the former de-facto government. Sporadic shooting was also heard nearby, however no injuries were reported. On the same day, Islamic and National factions held a sit-in out the front of ICRC Office in Gaza City, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Demonstrations outside UNSCO were reported regarding reconstruction and distribution issues related to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism. A similar sit-in was reported at Kerem Shalom crossing. A small family sit-in regarding shelter payments was reported at the UNRWA RSSP office in Rafah, southern Gaza.
Support from UNRWA’s Job Creation Program has enabled Hikmat Al Faiyumi to find an income to buy food for her family. © UNRWA Photo by Shareef Sarhan
Palestine refugee Hikmat Al Faiyumi could previously only feed her children with aid from UNRWA. Now she has a small income selling fine handmade embroidery and knitting products that allows her to buy basic necessities, thanks to support through UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme (JCP).
In addition to providing a source of income, the programme seeks to restore dignity, self-respect and some self-reliance to refugees in Gaza. By linking beneficiaries with employment in Gaza’s private sector, the programme contributes positively to a devastated Gaza economy.
Last month, the proud mother made US $100 in embroidery sales. This is in addition to the JCP program finding her a three-month cleaning contract that enabled her to pay off family debts accrued when her husband Jamil’s factory and their family home were destroyed during the 2014 summer conflict. Hikmat, her husband and children have since lived at the Collective Centre at Zaitoun Elementary School “B”, in Gaza City.
Hikmat and Jamil’s difficult financial conditions mean that assistance provided by UNRWA is an important lifeline for them, especially since the war and with their eight children now attending school. Hikmat’s brothers are helping with some of the family’s payments but with the seven-year Israeli-imposed blockade crippling local industry and means to make a living, the family now depend exclusively on UNRWA’s programs to survive.
In October 2014, UNRWA engineers assessed the family’s shelter as uninhabitable and they expect to receive an UNRWA shelter assistance payment soon. The family is eligible for a reintegration package of US $500 and Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance of US $ 1,000, which will enable them to move out of the Collective Centre and into a rented apartment.
Hikmat wishes to have her home rebuilt and bring up her children in peace and security.
During the reporting week, there were a number of incidences of the IDF opening fire towards Palestinians near the fence and at Palestinian boats. On 19 January, militants fired one rocket towards Israel. The rocket dropped short and landed in a Palestinian area. No injuries were reported. Also on 19 January, militants fired three test rockets towards the sea.
The Agency has concluded assessments of its damaged UNRWA installations, with a total of 118. Repair work is ongoing.
UNRWA is seeking USD 1.6 billion for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip. More information can be found here.
On 9 December, UNRWA launched the oPt Emergency Appeal in Geneva. For its emergency operations in Gaza, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.