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Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
19 July 2004
Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION REPORT
BEIT HANOUN, GAZA STRIP
Monday, 19 July 2004
Movement restrictions on humanitarian agencies intensified in and around Beit Hanoun on Sunday and Monday, 18 and 19 July, exacerbating already challenging access issues in the area, where a difficult and unpredictable security situation prevails.
Humanitarian needs, mostly around food and medical provision for isolated families, arise primarily from an extensive, continuing military operation in the area by the Israel Defense Forces. Humanitarian agencies have also highlighted the need to restore water and electricity supplies in the area.
The IDF increased its presence in As Sika Street in Beit Hanoun, in the north of the Gaza Strip, on Sunday, 18 July. The IDF has been conducting an intensive military operation in Beit Hanoun since late June, after two Israelis were killed and nine injured on 28 June when Palestinian militants launched a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. Palestinian movement in Gaza has been severely affected by the operation.
Gaza was also the scene of a sudden surge in violence and insecurity at the weekend, including the kidnap and later release of four aid workers. The turmoil has made the general operating environment in Gaza increasingly uncertain for aid workers.
Entry and exit to central Beit Hanoun remains restricted to the single dirt track to the south of Erez industrial estate, which remains controlled by an Israeli tank position. The tank moved approximately 20 metres eastwards on Saturday, closer to the entrance to the dirt track. The IDF has placed additional sand chicanes on Saturday on Salah ed Din Street, south of the Erez Industrial Zone, to further regulate traffic movement.
International agencies have been granted access to Beit Hanoun town following prior coordination with the District Coordination Liaison officer (DCL).
However, movement restrictions on international agencies have intensified in areas on the periphery of Beit Hanoun. Additional coordination, including prior approval for each intended road to be used, is required for agencies wishing to travel in areas outside central Beit Hanoun. In recent days this coordination has sometimes required faxed submission of vehicle and ID details.
As Sika Street and Sultan Abdel Hamid areas in western Beit Hanoun were inaccessible for all agencies on Monday, and OCHA was denied access to Al Masria and Al Farrata areas in eastern Beit Hanoun. Access was possible to the northern part of As Sika Street on Sunday afternoon. However, permission was not granted to repair crews to cross a sand barrier to move further south down the street and fix damaged power lines.
On Monday, access to As Sika Street was denied to UN agencies and the ICRC, although it was possible to reach houses near the industrial zone in south western Beit Hanoun. Access to Al Farrata and Al Masria areas in eastern Beit Hanoun was also denied on Monday.
Palestinian commercial vehicles may enter and exit Beit Hanoun following coordination with the DCL officer via the municipality. Private vehicles are not permitted.
POWER and WATER
ICRC and OCHA are continuing to escort municipality engineering teams to conduct repairs to water and power networks that have been damaged over the last 3 weeks. All such visits have to be coordinated with the DCL. OCHA and the municipality engineering team were denied access by the DCL to As Sika Street and the Sultan Abdel Hamid area in western Beit Hanoun on Monday. Houses in both areas remain without water and electricity supplies.
Engineers were able to make minor repairs to a section of the electricity network in the northern section of As Sikka Street on Sunday and on Wednesday 14 July. However, the team was denied access to the section south of the junction with As Sika Street and Al Wahd road. Prior coordination had been approved for access to the southern section, but as the teams reached Al Wahd road, a series of sand barriers and trenches blocked further progress. The continuing movement of heavy Israeli armoured vehicles in the area is causing repeated breaks in the electrical networks given the already poor condition of the infrastructure.
On 14 and 15 July, UNRWA undertook a large food distribution operation in Beit Hanoun. It distributed 370mt of food to approximately 20,000 persons, or two-thirds of the population of the town. The assistance (oil, flour, rice, sugar, lentils and whole milk) was provided by a convoy of 16 trucks and designed to cover 45 days. Mobile UNRWA teams have also sought to distribute food to families in the peripheral areas who have no access to central Beit Hanoun, from where the main food distribution took place. However, during a mobile distribution on Sunday, 18 July, at the southern area of As Sikka Street, IDF troops opened fire in proximity to UNRWA staff, despite prior coordination with the DCL. A similar incident involving UNRWA Commissioner General, Peter Hansen, occurred on 14 July.
UNRWA health workers who live outside Beit Hanoun continue to rely on UNRWA international staff to facilitate their movement in and out of the town to the health centre each day. No shortages of supplies to the area have been reported by either the UNRWA or Ministry of Health clinics.
An UNRWA health team has been operating in conjunction with the mobile food distribution staff in the more isolated areas, attempting to reach families who have no access to the UNRWA health clinic in the centre of the town.
However, patients suffering from chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes are not able to reach health facilities to receive their medication. UNRWA has reported that the stress and tension induced by the ongoing situation is requiring diabetic patients to move from tablets to injectable insulin. There is concern among health service providers that patients are not receiving the insulin in the quantities required, while stocks of the drug cannot be left with the patients as cold chain conditions are required for storage. An uninterrupted electrical supply is necessary to maintain the cold chain; without this, the insulin will quickly lose its effectiveness.
OCHA has visited families in Al Masria, distributing contact telephone numbers for a local midwife who lives in the area and for a help line for those with psychosocial concerns. This action was taken after agencies raised concerns about access for pregnant women to appropriate prenatal, delivery and antenatal medical care. Similar concerns were voiced in relation to mental health of those families living in the peripheral areas.
PROPERTY DESTRUCTION and LAND LEVELLING
Israeli bulldozing operations took place between As Sikka Street and Salah ed Din Street in Beit Hanoun on Wednesday 14 July and Sunday 18 July. There has been extensive leveling of citrus and olive crops in the area. No accurate figures for the area of land levelled are yet available, because accessing these areas is difficult. A family of 12 people was made homeless on Sunday night when their house in Al Farrata, in eastern Beit Hanoun was destroyed by the IDF.
OCHA, UNRWA and the ICRC continue to liaise closely with Beit Hanoun municipality to determine the needs of the local population. Humanitarian agencies’ priorities are restoration of electrical and water networks, and provision of food and medical supplies to populations living in peripheral areas.