Hostilities have continued for the 49th day in Gaza and southern Israel, resulting in mounting casualties, the continuing destruction of infrastructure and a rise in internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Israeli military has intensified the sending of messages through leaflets, phone calls and mobile phone texts warning civilians to stay away from "terrorists and terror infrastructure", causing panic among the population in Gaza. Although the bombing of residential structures has been characteristic of the military offensive to date, with over 17,000 buildings destroyed or severely damaged, the weekend witnessed the destruction of a number of entire multi-storey buildings.
On 23 August, the Israeli air force levelled the 13-storey building (Al-Zafer Tower 4), southwest of Gaza city, alleging that Hamas was running an operations centre from one of the floors. The 49-apartment tower had housed at least 40 families, all of whom are now displaced. Israeli forces provided a number of warnings, including small rockets and phone calls to some of the
families living in the tower, ordering them to evacuate. At least 18 people from the neighbourhood were reportedly injured. Also destroyed over the weekend were the seven-storey Zourab office block in Rafah, believed to house an office used by the Hamas-run interior ministry, and a two-storey shopping mall, also in Rafah.
Hostilities and casualties
Since the last situation update, at least 46 persons, many of whose status still need to be verified, have reportedly been killed, including three who died from injuries sustained earlier. The figures consist of 26 civilians including 14 children and 6 women, and 10 members of armed groups. This brings the cumulative death toll among Palestinians since 7 July to at least 2,076, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 369 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. Of the initially verified cases, 1,454 are believed to be civilians, including 491
children and 253 women, and 253 members of armed groups.
Approximately 25 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have reportedly been killed in Gaza since 21 August. These have not been included in the fatality toll above.
PCHR Calls for Stopping Extra-Judicial Executions in Gaza, 22 August 2014
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 20 August, 10,224 Palestinians, including 3,106 children and 1,970 women and 368 elderly, have been injured. Preliminary estimates indicate that up to 1,000 of the children injured will have a permanent disability.
During the reporting period, at least 56 houses were totally destroyed in Israeli air strikes. Since the launch of the Israeli military operation, over a thousand homes have reportedly been directly targeted by Israeli airstrikes, and it is estimated that at least 17,200 housing units have been totally destroyed or severely damaged during Israeli air strikes and shelling from 7 July to 20 August. Human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns regarding incidents where civilians or civilian objects have been directly hit by Israeli airstrikes, in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the close vicinity. Such cases raise concerns about the targeting of civilians, in violation of the principle of distinction.
Among the most serious incidents recorded during the reporting period:
At around 20:30 on 22 August, the Israeli air force struck a five-storey residential building belonging to Abu Aqleen family south of Gaza city, reportedly injuring at least 40 people, including 15 children. Although, the Israeli military fired a warning strike that hit the roof, families were still fleeing the building when the main attack took place.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to rise, with at least 475,000 persons — more than a quarter of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza — now displaced. As of yesterday evening, there were 283,220 IDPs hosted in 85 designated UNRWA schools. Another 36,136 IDPs were hosted in seven government shelters supported by UNRWA and 13,729 IDPS in 17 government schools managed by MoSA. 140,895 IDPs residing with host families have been registered and reached by various partners. In addition, an estimated several thousand IDPs are taking shelter in public buildings and informal shelters.
Before the conflict, UNRWA, based on previous hostilities, had anticipated some 35,000 to 50,000 displaced people in its installations for a period of days in the event of a military escalation. The current number of IDPs represents six times the maximum number of displaced foreseen in its contingency plan and is unprecedented in the Agency's 64 years history in Gaza.
Despite substantive improvements over the past week, the ever growing numbers of IDPs in shelters presents a massive challenge to UNRWA. Currently, all of its designated emergency shelters are connected to water wells or the municipality network, or both, and 495 water tanks have been installed to improve storage capacity and water supply, as municipal water is supplied only for a few hours per week. UNRWA's hygiene and water campaign continues in the designated shelters, with 137 IDP committees (including at minimum two women, two men and four youths, comprising two girls and two boys) established with 1,314 members. Hygiene focal points and facilitators have organized 697 awareness sessions among 36,291 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. The campaign is supported by posters in all shelters. With prolonged displacement, posters made of durable material are being put up on the walls in all shelters, including in toilets and water points, informing residents about water conservation, appropriate hygiene practices and the treatment of scabies and lice. The deteriorating security situation, however, largely prevents the movement of staff working on the campaign.
Hygiene awareness, health monitoring and training to shelter management committees is also being provided in the government schools. Management committees include the IDPs themselves. However, the government schools lack paid staff to ensure data registration, cleaning and additional security. Hygiene concerns, for example lice, are being addressed by the relevant cluster partners.
There are also reports of significant displacement in southern Israel, particularly among communities which are in range of mortar fire from Gaza, which the Iron Dome system is unable to intercept. Many families had evacuated at the beginning of the conflict in July, relocating to family and friends in more northerly locations. However, many returned during the extended ceasefire period, but have evacuated their homes again since the resumption of hostilities last week. This movement has reportedly intensified after the killing of a four-year-old boy in one of the affected communities by a mortar shell fragment on Friday. The number of people affected is unknown, as residents have been making informal arrangements, but Israeli media report that 400 families have requested official assistance from the Israeli authorities in relocating.
Update on Education
Nearly half a million children in Gaza were unable to return to primary and secondary schools yesterday, the scheduled start to the new academic year. To mark the occasion school bells were rung at 07:00 in all 85 UNRWA emergency shelters, as a reminder that, despite the hostilities, every child in Gaza has the right to education.
According to current estimates, the school term will not resume until at least two or three weeks into a durable ceasefire. Schools currently used as shelters will require varying degrees of rehabilitation in order to be ready for normal schooling. Initial repairs must also be carried out in war-damaged schools, and unexploded ordnance will need to be cleared to restore safety. With nearly half of Gaza's children suffering mental distress, psychosocial support will have to be included in the school curriculum to heal children's psychological scars. This will only be possible once students are able to resume classes and their lives.
According to the most recent estimates, at least 244 schools in Gaza, including 141 government schools, 75 UNRWA schools, four private schools, 25 kindergartens, six universities and five colleges have been affected by shelling. In southern Israel, two schools have been damaged by rocket fire from Gaza.
Ms. June Kunugi, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine, 24 August 2014.
Key humanitarian priorities:
Protection of civilians: an immediate ceasefire is needed to protect civilians. While hostilities persist, all sides must respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack.
Humanitarian space: access for humanitarian workers to carry out life-saving activities should be ensured, 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: the first phase initial rapid needs assessment, covering the governorate level, was launched on 13 August to inform responses by humanitarian organizations. The second phase, covering the municipal level, took place on 18 and 19 August. Information collected is being analysed to determine the overall level of humanitarian needs.
Additional fuel supply: fuel is 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 across 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
IDPs are in need of food and other immediate assistance.
The entire population of Gaza has been affected by the conflict and almost all need food and other assistance to recover.
An estimated 100,000 people whose homes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair will need food and other assistance for a longer term.
Families relying on agricultural-related livelihoods need food, other immediate assistance and support in re-establishing their sources of income. An early recovery to re-establish their livelihoods and production capacity is required.
Restock with animal vaccination against FMD, Brucellosis, Chlamydia and Sheep pox are needed for 64,000 head of small ruminants and 20,000 head of cattle.
The poultry sub sector needs immediate assistance to reactivate the production capacity.
Humanitarian access to allow for provision of food and other emergency assistance to the civilian population should be consistently assured.
The first phase of the joint rapid needs assessment, led by the EOC started on 13 August, and data analysis in ongoing. The second phase of the joint rapid needs assessment started on 18 August, covering 19 municipalities (some 80 assessment staff were involved and at least 250 key informants interviewed, including youth, persons with disabilities and elderly). The remaining six municipalities were covered on 19 August and the eight refugee camps will be covered as soon as the situation
allows. Data collected will be entered on tablets and linked directly to a database. The information will be subsequently validated and analyzed, before it is disseminated. Protection and gender concerns have been integrated throughout the process as have questions on the information needs of affected communities. Clusters and sectors are currently engaged in ongoing analysis of the data generated from the two level needs assessments.
Today, UNDP and OCHA met with the Minister of Public Works and Housing and the Minister of Social Affairs, as well as a representative of the Palestinian Energy Authority and the Manager of the Gaza Power Plant to discuss the energy situation in Gaza and possible ways forward. OCHA provided information on the impact of the lack of electricity on the humanitarian situation and emergency fuel distributions as coordinated by OCHA and delivered by UNRWA. One of the outcomes of the meeting was that a task force of key actors would be established to work in a more concerted way on energy issues; it was proposed that the task force would be chaired by the Palestinian Energy Authority.
Also today, the Gaza EOC and representatives of the ministries of health and education linked into a discussion organized by MOPAD on the establishment of a 100-day plan for Gaza.
Based on available information, funding to the Gaza Crisis Appeal stands at US $177 million out of a total request of US $367 million (48%), however, of this around US $148 million is for UNRWA, US $20 million for WFP and only US $9 million for others, leaving large gaps to respond in other critical sectors such as Health, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Education and Shelter and Non Food Items. Many key UN and NGOs partners identified for the Gaza response have received little to no funding to date for their projects in the Crisis Appeal. The Crisis Appeal is available online at www.ochaopt.org.
Donors and recipient agencies are kindly requested to report funding received to email@example.com.
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, thirteen project proposals were approved for a total of US $3.1 million Further funding for the ERF is still being sought.
UN humanitarian agencies, in cooperation with NGO partners have applied to the CERF Rapid Response window to cover urgent needs in food assistance, psychosocial support, WASH, rubble removal and critical drugs, and the request is under processing by CERF.
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:
Ms. Katleen Maes, Head of the humanitarian Emergency Operations Center in Gaza, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 592 911 047
Mr. Ray Dolphin, Analysis, Communications and Protection Unit, OCHA oPt, email@example.com, +972 54 331 1827
For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms.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.