The current Israeli offensive in Gaza enters its sixth day with Israeli airstrikes and shelling from land and sea continuing. Sunday 18 November witnessed the highest number of casualties, including in a single incident to date; in which 10 civilians, including four children and four women, were killed in an airstrike on a residential building in Gaza City. Human rights organizations are verifying reports of further possible casualties in this incident. In total, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) announced that it had targeted approximately 100 sites throughout the Gaza Strip overnight, and 1,350 since the offensive started on 14 November. Areas targeted on Monday included residential buildings, a football ground, vehicles, police stations, and Hamas military bases in Gaza City, Khan Yunis, Deir al Balah, and Rafah cities. Initial reports indicate that approximately 19 people were killed and more than 60 injured. The Protection Cluster reports that, in total, as of 13.00 hours on Monday, 88 Palestinians are reported to have been killed, including 57 civilians, of whom 18 are children and 12 are women. Some 740 Palestinians are reported to have been injured (according to Gaza Ministry of Health data), including 252 children and 139 women.
The IDF reported a forty percent decrease in the number of rockets fired from Gaza on Sunday and a virtual lull overnight. However, missile fire from Gaza into Israel resumed on Monday morning with dozens of strikes reported. Several rockets struck populated areas and one school sustained a direct hit in the city of Ashkelon; with schooling suspended there were no casualties. Since the beginning of the offensive, over 1,000 rockets and missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel, resulting in the deaths of three Israeli civilians and 127 Israelis injuries, the vast majority of whom are civilians, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
The ongoing violence is having an increasingly devastating impact on civilians both in terms of the rising casualty figures and the widespread fear amongst the civilian populations. In Gaza, initial reports indicate that some 31 residences have been targeted in Israeli air strikes. The Israeli army is reportedly using local media channels (FM) to warn the population to stay away from Hamas personnel and infrastructure for their own safety. Increasing and significant numbers of families are fleeing their homes particularly in areas that have experience heavy bombing and artillery fire. Other families living in the vicinity of government institutions and police stations are reportedly evacuating their homes to safer areas. The increased use of naval artillery fire by Israeli forces, which is reportedly less precise than aircraft-delivered munitions, is also concerning. Gazans continue to limit their movement in the streets and public transportation is largely unavailable.
The situation in the West Bank is also deteriorating with demonstrations reported across the West Bank in recent days and frequent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli military at key checkpoints.
The ongoing violence is taking place amid international efforts led by Egypt aimed at brokering a ceasefire. Expressing his concern at the impact of the offensive on Palestinian and Israeli civilians, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced his arrival in the region to appeal personally for an end to the violence and to contribute to efforts to reach a cease-fire.
Kerem Shalom: the sole crossing for commodities in the Gaza Strip did not operate today due to the security situation, according to the Israeli authorities. Yesterday (18 November), the crossing opened for the first time since the start of the current escalation, allowing the entry of 80 truckloads of goods, including 15 truckloads of medical and food items by humanitarian agencies and 65 truckloads by the private sector, carrying primarily human and animal food items.
Erez: authorized medical cases and foreign nationals (except for those who entered Gaza through Egypt and those with dual foreign and Palestinian nationality) are, in principle, allowed through the crossing according to the Israeli authorities. However, in practice, passage has been prevented by Hamas personnel at the checkpoint controlling access to this crossing (Arba-Arba). Exception was made for 13 patients referred for treatment in hospitals in Israel and East Jerusalem who were allowed through the checkpoint yesterday, in addition to 23 internationals. Today, 14 more patients and their escorts crossed into Israel through Erez Crossing.
Rafah: the passenger crossing with Egypt remains open and is working at levels prior to the current escalation in violence, i.e. it is open for Gazans with coordination in advance and for humanitarian cases. However, due to the security situation and the lack of public transport, some people have reported that they have not been able to reach the crossing.
Two networks providing electricity to more than 50,000 people in Gaza City and Khan Younis sustained extensive damage yesterday (18 November) during an air strike; repairs by the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) are underway. Additionally, for the fourth consecutive day, one of the Israeli electricity feeder lines that supplies the Khan Younis area is not functioning; attempts to repair the line have so far been unsuccessful due to the security situation.
The Gaza power plant received around 155,000 liters of fuel yesterday through the tunnels, enabling it to keep running one of four turbines during daytime, and two turbines at night. Electricity production remains at less than one-third of the plant’s full capacity during the day and around half at night. Scheduled blackouts across Gaza have remained at 8-12 hours per day.
At 1800 hours Monday, up to 75 percent of the population of Gaza City was without electricity due to damage to two feeder lines and technical damage to another two.
The constant barrage of air strikes and rocket fire is traumatic and the major cause of psychosocial distress for families and especially children. Given this intensity, a significant number of children will require some form of psychosocial support beyond what their families normally provide. Specific groups of children who are in urgent need of support include the approximately 4,800 children whose homes have been destroyed or sustained damage. The anticipation of when and where the next explosion will occur leaves many children in a state of constant fear.
The Child Protection Working Group (CPWG) is preparing a strategy for the scaling up of the existing five Emergency Psychosocial Teams, 21 Family Centres and 15 Adolescent-Friendly Centres as soon as the security situation permits.
Protection Cluster members are continuing to document incidents to identify possible violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Since 14 November, at least 83 houses have been destroyed or sustained major damage; 31 of these were destroyed or damaged in the last 24 hours. Additionally, more than 720 houses have sustained minor damage, primarily to doors and windows; approximately 220 of these cases (30 percent) were recorded in the last 24 hours.
Displacement of families to relatives and friend in areas they consider safer, continues. This has affected mainly those whose homes sustained damage, or are located near to potential air or ground targets (including government institutions). UNRWA’s shelter and emergency teams have prepared one school in Jabalia to be opened as a shelter should it be necessary. The Agency received initial requests for assistance from 50 families (250 people) after their homes sustained damage.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has started distributing plastic sheets to families in houses that sustained minor damage in Gaza City; with over 250 families reached to date.
Following yesterday’s opening of Kerem Shalom, approximately 200 pallets of essential drugs and medical consumables entered Gaza, slightly reducing the number of items out of stock. While hospitals operated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza have continued to function, they are having to cope with the large number of traumatic injuries, with still severely-depleted medical supplies. The World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed to the international community for support in providing essential medical supplies, by coordinating donations according to the specific needs of the MoH in Gaza.
The difficulties people face in purchasing desalinated water from private vendors is of increasing concern, as most vendors have suspended water trucking due to insecurity. Yesterday (18 November), during an airstrike in Jabalia, the truck of a private water vendor was hit and two people were reported killed (unconfirmed). While some people can rely for a few days on limited stocks at home or buy bottled water, many others have began to consume saline tap water, which is significantly below international minimum standards for potable water. The water supplied via the primary distribution network is saline and unsafe, due to the increasing contamination of the groundwater aquifer.
Despite some damage to infrastructure, the impact of hostilities on the provision of WASH services has remained limited. Since 14 November, seven water networks, one water well and two water reservoirs have sustained damage. The staff of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza (CMWU) has repaired two of the damaged networks, and other repairs are ongoing intermittently, as the security situation allows.
UNRWA continues to provide solid waste collection in the eight refugee camps across Gaza to mitigate public health concerns, with the level of operations at 85 percent of normal capacity. Municipal trucks have also been observed resuming limited waste collection services.
The UN Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) has approved the funding of a proposal for emergency collection of solid waste, submitted by the UN Development Program (UNDP). The project, budgeted at approximately US$ 250,000 aims to supply waste service councils and municipalities in North and Central Gaza Governorates with fuel necessary to operate their machines, and thus mitigate public health risks.
Preliminary reports indicate that private sector fodder stocks are nearly depleted. It is estimated that the current levels of fodder for sheep, goats and poultry will only last for the next 2-3 days, if additional stocks are not imported. The fodder that entered Gaza yesterday during the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing (20 truckloads) covered the needs of the poultry sector for 3 days andfodder shortages in the small ruminates and cattle sectors have continued to increase.
Since the beginning of the current escalation, fishing has come to an almost total halt. The Deir al Balah fishing wharf sustained severe damage as a result of shelling by the Israeli Navy, including damage to fishing equipment, boats, machinery and offices. The Fishermen Syndicate and the local Police have advised fishermen to refrain from accessing the sea.
Schools in Gaza have remained closed since the beginning of hostilities last week. Reports indicate that three additional schools sustained damage yesterday, bringing the total number of schools damaged over the last five days to at least 33. The number includes 27 schools run by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Gaza, at least six UNRWA schools and one private school.
OCHA is continuing to coordinate clusters in Gaza. Efforts are focused on information gathering, identification of stocks and potential response in the event of increased needs. The Inter-Agency Contingency Plan has been updated and will be fully activated in the event of any substantial deterioration in the situation on the ground.