The 72-hour-ceasefire that entered into force on 5 August has held, but is set to expire tomorrow at 08:00, unless an extension is agreed before then. While people in Gaza are struggling to take maximum advantage of the lull to meet their most urgent needs, attention is focused on the ongoing negotiations over an extension of the ceasefire under Egyptian mediation.
The situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has remained fluid. While more IDPs have left emergency shelters and host families, others have subsequently returned after finding their homes destroyed or uninhabitable, due to a feeling of insecurity, or because they have nothing to eat. It is estimated that nearly 10,800 homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair over the course of hostilities, rendering some 65,000 people homeless.
This uncertainty is further challenging efforts by humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance, primarily food and water. As of this afternoon, UNRWA was sheltering 166,500 people in 89 schools, down from 187,000 yesterday and almost 273,000 at its peak on 4 August. The bulk of the decline in the number of IDPs at UNRWA shelters has been recorded in northern Gaza and Rafah, while in other areas there has been only a minor decrease. Approximately 35,800 IDPs were residing in 30 government schools and other institutions (including eight schools supported by UNRWA). There is currently no update available on the number of IDPs outside UNRWA and government shelters.
The existence of thousands of explosive remnants of war in civilian areas is a major emerging concern, especially regarding children, farmers, IDPs returning home and humanitarian workers. Areas up to three kilometres from Gaza's perimeter fence (44 per cent of the Gaza Strip), which were declared as a "buffer zone" for the duration of the Israeli ground incursion, are considered particularly dangerous. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has begun assessing critical UN facilities in this area to allow for the resumption of activities there.
Intense search and rescue operations have continued during the reporting period. Since the last update 26 new fatalities have been recorded, including due to the recovery of bodies and the receipt of information about deaths that occurred in previous days but had not been recorded. Of the 26 fatalities, 14 were identified as civilians, including three children, while the identity or the status of the rest is still being verified. Over half of these fatalities fell during the shelling and airstrikes that took place in Rafah on 1 and 2 August.
This brings the cumulative death toll among Palestinians to at least 1,869, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 272 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. Of the fatalities whose identity and status could be verified, 1,380 are believed to be civilians, including 423 children and 224 women, and 217 members of armed groups.
The lull during the past 48 hours has been crucial in facilitating the operation and repair of essential infrastructure. While the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) remains inoperable following the damage sustained during an Israeli airstrike on 29 July, six of the ten electricity feeder lines from Israel to Gaza are now operational, and efforts to repair the remaining four lines are ongoing on both sides of the border. Together with the electricity supply from Egypt, Gaza receives now some 100 megawatts, double the amount five days ago, accounting for approximately 20 per cent of the estimated demand. Despite the improvement, most areas across Gaza do not receive electricity for more than three-four hours per day, while localities in the middle area, which depended exclusively on the GPP, are receiving zero electricity. This is primarily due to the severe damage sustained by the internal distribution network, which could not yet be repaired.
The staff of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which is in charge of most of the water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza, has been deployed at full capacity to repair and operate previously inaccessible facilities. The Head of the CMWU estimated that by the expiration of the current ceasefire, water supply to half of the population could be restored and provide households with water for several hours every five days.
Key humanitarian priorities
Humanitarian space: increased 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 UXOs 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.
The Education Cluster is coordinating plans for the opening of the new school year at both MoEHE and UNRWA schools, Partners are this week collecting more detailed data on which schools will not be available for educational purposes, either due to extensive damage or usage as temporary shelters, by the launch of the new school year.
The Education Cluster is working with service providers to align on a special package for returning school students, with a focus on psychosocial support and recreational activities.
Gaps & Constraints
Humanitarian organizations, under the leadership of OCHA, began preparations towards the launching of joint rapid needs assessment on 10 August, including the finalization of questionnaires, the allocation of staff to various teams, and the conduct of relevant trainings. Various local ministries have already committed their participation and support, with the Ministry of National Economy serving as focal point. 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 during three-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.
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, seven project proposals were approved for a total of US$ 1.6 million 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, the following proposals are in process; a proposal by Palestinian Medical Relief Society — PMRC for Emergency Intervention (totalling US$ 249,845) to build community support teams in Gaza Strip; a proposal by Agricultural Development Association (PARC) to provide Safe Water for IDPs in Gaza for US$ 249,780; and a proposal by MA'AN Development Center (MA'AN) as Emergency Reparation of WASH facilities in the Gaza Strip for US$ 275,000, a proposal by UNDP for Emergency Support to the Electricity Sector due to Damages in the Gaza Strip through the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCO) for US$ 250,000, a proposal by Union of Agricultural work Committees (UAWC) for Emergency Support for families in informal shelters in Gaza for US$ 238,707 are under process. Further funding for the ERF is under process. Further funding for the ERF is still being sought.
UN humanitarian agencies, in cooperation with NGO partners are in the process of finalizing 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:
Matthew Ryder, Head of the humanitarian Emergency Operations Center in Gaza, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 597 958 441
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.