Although Egyptian mediation efforts on reaching a permanent ceasefire are ongoing, hostilities have continued at the lower level of intensity of recent days. These have resulted in additional Palestinian fatalities and property damage and a continuing return of thousands of displaced to emergency shelters. In addition to generating uncertainty and fear, hostilities are impeding or delaying essential humanitarian deliveries, the repair of critical infrastructure, the clearing of unexploded ordnance, and comprehensive damage assessment surveys.
Hostilities and casualties
Since the last update, Israeli air raids reportedly struck four mosques, 12 houses and vacant plots across the Gaza Strip. An attack on a military site belonging to one armed group reportedly inflicted damage on an UNRWA clinic located close to the site, and some nearby housing units. Five Palestinians were killed as a result of these strikes, including three members of armed groups and two others whose status is unknown. Eight additional fatalities were recorded, including persons whose bodies were recovered, cases of late reporting, and people who died from their injuries.
This brings the cumulative death toll among Palestinians to at least 1,948, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 320 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. The number of civilians has been reduced slightly from the last situation update, from 1,408 to 1,402, because of new information on some cases, where their status was revised to unknown or to being a member of an armed group. Of the civilian casualties whose identity and status could be verified, 456 are children and 237 are women; the fatalities include eleven UNRWA staff members. Some 226 have been identified as members of armed groups. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 17:00 on 6 August, 9,806 Palestinians, including 2,979 children and 1,903 women and 356 elderly, had been injured.
According to the latest figures gathered by the Shelter Cluster, since the start of the emergency, 11,855 housing units have been totally destroyed (6,670), requiring reconstruction; or are severely damaged (5,185), and are uninhabitable until major repairs can take place. This is over 85 per cent higher than the equivalent figure, approximately 6,400, recorded during the "Cast Lead" operation in 2008/9. Another 5,595 houses have suffered major damage but are still inhabitable in part while 31,350 have suffered minor damage. The estimated total cost for reconstruction and repair of these homes is approximately US$ 410 million
Rocket and mortar firing by Palestinian factions into Israel continued during the reporting period, mostly by groups other than Hamas. No injuries were reported. Since 8 July, three civilians in Israel have been killed, including one foreign national, and dozens directly injured by rockets or shrapnel. The total of Israeli military fatalities stands at 64.
UN Secretary-General's Remarks to the General Assembly on the Situation in Gaza, New York, 6 August 2014.
With no signs yet of the Egyptian-moderated negotiations bearing fruit, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) returning to schools designated as emergency shelters continues to increase. Another 15,000 have been added to the estimated 60,000 individuals who had returned in the first 24 hours following the end of the 72-hour ceasefire, bringing the total to 236,897 in 90 UNRWA schools, as of yesterday afternoon. Another 38,994 were hosted in 23 government and private schools and public facilities. As of today, 25,000 families (approximately 150,000 individuals) are registered by the Ministry of Social Affairs displaced and taking shelter with host families.
UNRWA continues to provide food, water and non food items to IDPs sheltered in its schools and, with other agencies, to the IDPs taking shelter in government schools. With prolonged displacement in schools and no end in sight to hostilities, solid waste management, overcrowding, and the lack of electricity are ongoing problems. The resumption of hostilities has also impeded the planned roll out of a hygiene and water campaign but UNRWA has increased surveillance in the emergency shelters to prevent a large scale outbreak of diseases. Health teams in each shelter, including a doctor, a nurse, and a health educator, are monitoring nine health issues of concern, and are providing health education to the displaced. However, access to medical care, including medication for chronic diseases, remains problematic
Infrastructure and services
The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) remains inoperable following an Israeli airstrike on 29 July. Despite repairs to feeder lines and an increase in the volume of electricity incoming from Israel and Egypt (currently 124 Megawatts), 90 per cent of which is utilized and 10 per cent not due to the extensive damage sustained to the internal distribution network, electricity supply to households continues to range between three and six hours a day. Water and sanitation services have also been severely affected and technical teams from the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) continue to conduct emergency repairs to wells and damaged water pipelines. It is estimated that the running water supply to half of the population has been restored, allowing the provision of households with water for several hours every five days, while the other half of the population receives no, or very little, water.
Seven out of 21 UNWRA primary health centres remain closed and in other areas health centres are struggling with up to 10 IDP sites to cater for in addition to their normal patient caseload. Shortages of drugs and medical supplies continue to be a concern, with health providers estimating that they have consumed the same amount of drugs and consumables in the past month as would normally consume in three months. The 14 MoH Hospitals and 15 NGO Hospitals are relying on back-up electric generators to run the facilities, and with prolonged electricity cuts, fuel needs for these generators have increased, with fuel reserves sufficient for 3-10 days. So far, 370 patients have been referred outside facilities outside Gaza for specialized medical care due to the nature of their injuries and the lack of medical resources (specialized staff, equipment and medicine and disposables); 340 are waiting to be referred; and 147 applications are in the process of being referred.
Even in the event of a new ceasefire agreement, the school year in UNRWA and government schools will not start on 24 August 2014, as scheduled. Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance, damage assessment, repair works and preparation for the new school year — such as class formation — will take longer than the two weeks left. UNRWA is examining the possibility of installing TV screens in its shelters so that children can follow UNRWA TV, which provides 16 hours of lessons per day in mathematics, Arabic, science and English.
Key humanitarian priorities
Humanitarian space: access for humanitarian workers to carry out life-saving activities should be maintained, among other reasons, to complete search and rescue operations in several areas, and repair critical water and electricity infrastructure. Removal of the threat of numerous UXO in built up areas is vital.
Joint needs assessments: must be launched in the coming days to inform interventions by humanitarian organizations. This is contingent on an extension of the ceasefire.
Additional fuel supply: needed to operate backup generators at essential facilities, including water, sanitation and health, for longer hours.
Strengthen response to IDPs: improving priority response to IDPs in non-UNRWA facilities and with host families; ensuring common standards of response to IDPs throughout the Gaza strip, including comprehensive and common registration.
Humanitarian needs and response
Following the resumption of hostilities, humanitarian organizations have postponed the launching of the joint rapid needs assessment originally scheduled for 10 August. However, preparations have continued, including the finalization of questionnaires, the allocation of staff to various teams, and the conduct of relevant trainings. Various technical authorities have committed their support. The assessment will take place in two phases: an overview at the governorate level, on the first day, followed by an assessment at the municipality and refugee camp level for a period of three to four days. Data collected will be entered on tablets and linked directly to a database. The information will be subsequently validated and analysed, before it is disseminated. Protection and gender concerns have been integrated throughout the process.
On 10 August, the Humanitarian Coordinator joined the daily coordination of the OCHA-led Emergency Operations Centre in Gaza to prepare for the assessment and coordinate urgent responses.
Mr. Shawqi Issa, Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of Agriculture of the State of Palestine along with the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. James W. Rawley launched the 2014 Gaza Crisis Appeal which outlines the planned humanitarian response of the HCT, including UNRWA to the current emergency. The appeal is intended to address urgent needs in Gaza and currently requests US$ 367 million to implement 86 projects in clusters/sectors including Education, Food Security, Health and Nutrition, Protection, Shelter and WASH as well as Coordination and Support Services. The clusters/sectors requesting the largest amount of funds are Food Security and Shelter which are requesting a total of US$ 293 million together. The appeal is based on the latest analysis of the required emergency assistance to meet the most critical needs of the affected population and will be revised as further information from the ground becomes available and needs assessments become possible. The Crisis Appeal supersedes the estimates presented in the Gaza Crisis Preliminary Needs and Requirements paper of 24 July. The Crisis Appeal is available online at www.ochaopt.org.
The Emergency Response Fund (ERF) is an additional mechanism available to fund interventions in Gaza through rapid and flexible support to affected civilian populations. The ERF has begun processing project applications in regards to the Gaza emergency. To date, eight project proposals were approved for a total of US$ 1.85 million. UNDP for Emergency Support to the Electricity Sector due to Damages in the Gaza Strip through the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCO), ACF's two projects to provide emergency shelter and NFIs and water, sanitation and hygiene to affected families; Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) project to support for the emergency needs of neonatal units in Gaza hospitals by procurement of essential drugs and disposables; Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC) emergency intervention to support the continuation of health services in the northern area of Gaza Strip by providing dedication fuel and consumables to Al Awda hospital, Dan Church Aid and PARC projects to provide food packages and hygiene kits to IDPs hosted in Shelters in Deir Al Balah ,Rafah and Khan Yunis; by and UNMAS' project for the management of ERW to reduce the risk posed to civilians.
In addition a number of proposals are currently being processed, including by Palestinian Medical Relief Society for an emergency intervention to build community support teams worth approximately US$ 250,000; by the Agricultural Development Association (PARC) to provide safe water for IDPs worth approximately US$ 250,000; by MA'AN Development Center for the reparation of WASH facilities worth US$ 275,000; by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) for the support of families in informal shelters worth US$ 238,700 . Further funding for the ERF is still being sought.
UN humanitarian agencies, in cooperation with NGO partners are in the process of fmalizing an application to the CERF Rapid Response window covering urgent needs in food assistance, psychosocial support, WASH, rubble removal and critical drugs.
On 7 July 2014, the Israeli army launched a large military operation in the Gaza Strip, codenamed "Protective Edge", with the stated objective of stopping Palestinian rocket firing at southern Israel and destroying the military infrastructure of Hamas and other armed groups.
This development marked the collapse of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire understanding reached between Israel and Hamas in November 2012, which has been gradually undermined since December 2013. The latest escalation round started in early June, characterized by an intensification of Israeli airstrikes and rockets launched from Gaza at southern Israel. Tensions further increased following the abduction and killing of three Israeli youths in the southern West Bank, on 12 June, which the Israeli government attributed to Hamas. Overall, in the period leading up to the start of the current operation a total of 15 Palestinians, including one civilian, were killed, and another 58 others, mostly civilians, injured, as a result of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip; seven Israelis, five of whom were civilians, were injured due to rocket fire.
The current crisis comes against a backdrop of heightened vulnerability and instability. Unemployment increased dramatically since mid-2013, following a halt of the illegal tunnel trade, exacerbating the impact of the Israeli blockade in place since June 2007. Additionally, former de facto government employees, including the security forces, have not been paid salaries regularly since August 2013 and no salaries at all since April 2014. Delivery of basic services has been also undermined due to an ongoing energy crisis, involving power outages of 12 hours per day.
For further information, please contact:
Katleen Maes, Head of the humanitarian Emergency Operations Center in Gaza, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 592 911 047
Yehezkel Lein, Head of Analysis, Communications and Protection Unit, OCHA oPt, email@example.com, +972 54 331 1809
For media enquiries, please contact:
Hayat Abu-Saleh, Communications and Information Analyst, OCHA oPt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 (0) 54 3311816
For more information, please visit www.ochaopt.org
1Data on fatalities and destruction of property is consolidated by the Protection and Shelter clusters based on preliminary information, and is subject to change based on further verifications.