This report is produced by OCHA oPt in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 22 July (1500 hrs) to 23 July (1500 hrs). The next report will be issued on 24 July.
The casualty toll among Palestinian civilians continues to increase, with the Gaza emergency in its third week and the Israeli ground offensive continuing for the sixth consecutive day. A three kilometer-wide strip, encompassing 44 per cent of Gaza’s territory has been declared a ‘Islo-go zone’ by the Israeli military. There are reports that Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, was exposed to severe artillery fire over night and today, as Israeli forces reportedly entered several hundred metres into the village. According to preliminary information, at least 20 persons were killed. An evacuation of casualties has not yet taken place as ambulances await guarantees of safe access to the area.
Hostilities and casualties
Since the last situation update, 98 persons have been reported killed or their bodies recovered from under the rubble in Ash Shuja’iyeh neighborhood. Many residents of Ash Shuja’iyeh, including multiple family members, are reportedly still missing under the rubble of their homes, in areas that are still inaccessible. At approximately 17:00 yesterday, medical crews recovered the bodies of four members of the Hajjaj family, whose home was destroyed in an airstrike on the neighborhood on 21 July. The killing of multiple members of the same families as a result of the targeting of homes remains a matter of serious concern. Human rights organizations have estimated that since the start of the emergency, the Israeli military has targeted and destroyed or severely damaged 564 residential properties, including many multi-storey buildings, causing civilian casualties and displacing the survivors.
The cumulative fatality toll among Palestinians, as of this afternoon, stands at 697, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources. This includes at least 518 civilians (74 per cent), 108 members of armed groups and 71 persons whose status is yet unknown. A third of the civilian fatalities (170) are children. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 3,993 Palestinians, including 1,213 children and 698 women, had been injured as at 21.00 on 22 July. Thousands of explosive remnants of war are left in civilian areas affected by the conflict, causing a threat to children, especially boys who are usually the first victims of these dangerous items.
Despite a decrease since the start of the ground offensive, indiscriminate firing by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into southern and central Israel continued, resulting in the death of one foreign migrant worker and bringing the toll of civilian casualties in Israel to three. During the reporting period, another seven Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza, bringing the number of military fatalities to 35 since the beginning of the ground incursion, including one missing in action and presumed dead. Most international airlines have suspended international flights to Israel after a rocket launched from Gaza on Tuesday struck a house in Yehud near Ben-Gurion Airport international airport.
As a result of the hostilities, tens of thousands have continued to flee their homes in search of a safe haven. As of this afternoon, UNRWA was hosting approximately 140,000 IDPs in 83 schools operated as emergency shelters and safe spaces throughout the Gaza Strip, up from 117,000 yesterday. That is about six per cent of the Gazan population and more than double those sheltered by UNRWA during the three-week long Israeli Operation "Cast Lead" in 2008/2009.There are eight government schools (the majority in Gaza City), which have been officially opened as emergency shelters and are currently hosting several thousand IDPs; they are managed by the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs and their exact locations have been communicated to the Israeli military. Additionally, an unknown number of IDPs have taken refuge in other government schools, not opened as shelters, as well as in buildings under construction, both of which are considered unsafe. Last night 4,850 people were residing in five government schools, a mosque and Gaza city’s Greek Orthodox church. This is in addition to the approximately 19,400 individuals who have been displaced, as destruction or damage to their homes has rendered them uninhabitable.
Intense overcrowding, compounded by the limited access of humanitarian staff to certain areas, is increasingly undermining the living conditions at many shelters and raising protection concerns. Water supply has been particularly challenging, with IDPs in some shelters being supplied with as little as three liters per capita per day, to be used for all purposes including drinking and hygiene. The largest concern relates to the current conditions and shortages at eight UNRWA schools in the northern area, which could not be reached from outside for two consecutive days, due to the ongoing fighting.
Public infrastructure and services
Public infrastructure and services continued to be struck and sustain damages, including health facilities and ambulances. In the early morning of 23 July, two Israeli missiles landed in the vicinity of Gaza Power Plant (GPP) causing it to suspend operations. Initial reports suggest that two generators in one of the blocks were damaged by the attack and may need extensive repairs. Power supply is further reduced to a few hours per day in Gaza. GPP engineers are seeking guarantees from the Israeli authorities that they will not be targeted while conducting repairs. The ICRC will provide daily coordination for the GPP team to go to the power plant, escorts are not being provided at this point, as these escorts are needed for life-saving missions.
In the last 24 hours, six more UNRWA schools have been affected by shelling. In total, 116 schools (75 UNRWA and 41 government schools have been affected since last week due to their close proximity to targeted sites. At 06:00 on 23 July, an UNRWA school being used to shelter IDPs in Deir al Balah was shelled. No casualties were reported. Since the start of the emergency at least 18 medical facilities have been hit by airstrikes and shelling. Under IHL, medical personnel, hospitals and ambulances, exclusively assigned to medical duties, must be spared and allowed at all times to carry out their duties.
On 23 July, the Israeli military shelled Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital east of Gaza City, severely damaging the building. The Israeli army said they had targeted specific sites in the hospital compound after fire was opened from the location on several occasions. The hospital was struck twice by Israeli tank shells last week, forcing doctors and patients to evacuate the premises. At approximately 14:30 today, Israeli tanks fired a number of shells into the garden of Beit Hanoun Hospital, damaging the water network and reportedly injuring ambulance drivers.
For the second time, UNRWA has announced that, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, rockets were discovered hidden in a vacant school. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons. UNRWA ‘strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.’
Key humanitarian priorities
Protection of civilians: ensuring respect for the IHL principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack.
New humanitarian pause: urgently needed, among other reasons, to complete search and rescue operations in Ash Shuja’iyeh; reach IDPs and families in northern Gaza; and repair critical water and electricity infrastructure.
Scale up response to IDPs: additional shelters are needed to reduce overcrowding and accommodate new IDPs, alongside the replenishment of food, water, and NFI stocks.
Humanitarian needs and response
The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) continues its daily meetings, focusing primarily on the coordination of the IDP response and challenges related to humanitarian space. Some EOC members also carried out monitoring visits to government school shelters in the reporting period. In light of the damage sustained to the Gaza Power Plant during last night’s escalations, contingency plans were made for the delivery of fuel. Additionally, the EOC facilitated a meeting between two Gaza based ministers and their Ramallah-based colleagues. Response coordination continues to take place with the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) on IDP issues.
Today, the WASH cluster held an emergency meeting in response to the current water situation, in order to come up with a proposal for a way forward.
A number of bilateral contributions have already been received from donors who have provided funding for urgent needs in the most critical sectors. Based on initial cluster/sector analysis, it was estimated that US $40 million is needed for immediate assistance in Gaza, excluding UNRWA’s requirements. A number of clusters have also made a preliminary estimate of a further US $87 million that is needed for medium term interventions once the security situation permits. These figures are currently under revision (due to the increase in needs on the ground) and an update will be shared tomorrow.
UNRWA has issued an emergency flash appeal - the initial ask of US $40 million is needed for immediate assistance in Gaza, excluding UNRWA’s requirements. A number of clusters have US $40 million is needed for immediate assistance in Gaza, excluding UNRWA’s requirements. A number of clusters have US $60 million has been revised up to $115 million The amount requested is intended to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the tens of
thousands taking shelter in its facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to needs in shelter, food, health and psychosocial of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 170 million (43 per cent) out of a total request of US$ 390 million Nearly 90 per cent of 1.9 million vulnerable people targeted in the SRP are in Gaza. Gaza-specific projects have received 32% of their requested funding. The HCT has undertaken an exercise to identify the most urgent SRP projects that if funded would help support the response in Gaza, as well as any new needs and a list was shared with donors today.
The Humanitarian Country Team has begun development of a Gaza Crisis Preliminary Response Plan while will be fmalized by 1 August to address urgent humanitarian needs resulting from the conflict. The plan will look at programming needs for the next six months.
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. Thus far, two ACF project proposals, (totaling US$ 368,624.2) to distribute NFI and water storage tanks to 1,475 households in Gaza, are being processed. A number of donors have come forward with expressions of interest or pledges for the ERF including Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as Italy, which is a new donor set to come on board. Further funding for the ERF is still being sought. The CERF is another existing pooled funding mechanism that can be mobilized.
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 59 291 1047
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
‘These figures do not include many reported cases that could not yet be verified. Data 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.
2Data on injuries is provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.