An Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour cease-fire was accepted by Israel and the Palestinian armed groups in Gaza and entered into force today (5 August) at 08:00. Israeli forces had reportedly completed their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and redeployed along the fence separating Gaza and Israel. In light of previous failures, news of this development has been received with mixed feelings by the population in Gaza. Negotiations under Egyptian mediation about a more permanent agreement are expected to take place over the coming days.
Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, 5 August
While the gradual withdrawal of the Israeli army, which started on Saturday continued yesterday (4 August), numerous incidents involving the targeting and destruction of homes, as well as continued fighting, have taken place during the reporting period, resulting in additional civilian casualties.
Between 10:00 and 17:00 on 4 August the Israeli military declared a unilateral humanitarian pause across the Gaza Strip, except for certain areas in the eastern part of Rafah governorate and east of Gaza city (Ash Shuja'iyeh). The lull allowed for the retrieval of dozens of bodies from under the rubble, particularly in the Rafah governorate. In some of the most densely populated parts of refugee camps, people were removing the rubble with their hands, as heavy equipment could not reach the affected areas. The pause also allowed for utility workers to carry out basic maintenance and repairs. While many internally displaced persons (IDPs) visited their homes to inspect damage and retrieve belongings, the vast majority returned to the shelters and hosting families.
Gaza's medical services and facilities remain on the verge of collapse, with hospitals and clinics overwhelmed. Hospitals are struggling to overcome impediments to the transfer of patients to medical facilities outside of Gaza, both for life-saving treatment and to reduce the pressure on hospitals and free up beds for new casualties. Such impediments include the shortage of authorized ambulances to transport patients from the Erez crossing to the hospitals; insecurity impeding access to the Erez and Rafah crossings; and delays in the processing of referral requests, among others. During the emergency, less than 20 per cent of the usual number of referrals exited Gaza to Egypt or to the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
Hostilities and casualties
Despite the seven hour-long pause yesterday, during the reporting period, at least 72 Palestinians have reportedly been killed or died from wounds they sustained previously, and the bodies of at least 25 other people have been recovered. This brings the cumulative death toll among Palestinians to at least 1,814, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, which includes 287 persons (16 per cent), who could not be identified or their status established. Of the fatalities whose identity and status could be verified (1,527), over 85 per cent (1,312 people) are believed to be civilians, including 408 children and 214 women, and nearly 15 per cent (215) members of armed groups.
Indiscriminate firing by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into southern and central Israel continued, with most falling in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome system, resulting in no additional fatalities. Since 8 July, three civilians in Israel had been killed, including one foreign national, and dozens directly injured by rockets or shrapnel. No additional Israeli military fatalities have been reported during the reporting period and the cumulative number stands at 64.
Despite the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the temporary lull in hostilities in some areas, displacement continued during the reporting period, with over 4,600 additional IDPs registered at UNRWA and government shelters. As of yesterday afternoon, a total of 273,000 IDPs were staying in 90 UNRWA shelters and over 31,000 in 26 government shelters, four of which are supported by UNRWA. Last night, two government schools used as IDP shelters in Gaza City received warnings, reportedly from the Israeli military to evacuate; 850 IDPs from Ahmed Shawky school left to another school in Gaza city, whereas the IDPs in the other school remained.
Overcrowding at shelters is challenging the already stretched capacity of humanitarian agencies to provide IDPs with basic necessities, maintain hygiene conditions, and prevent the outbreak of epidemics. While showers in shelters have improved personal hygiene and decreased the risk of spread of disease, an accelerated level of diarrhea has been reported among children.
Additionally, since the start of the Gaza emergency, six UNRWA shelters have been hit during Israeli attacks, resulting in multiple casualties. Couple with the overcrowded conditions, this has generated frustration and anger among IDPs, which have triggered several incidents of violence against shelter managers, as well as disputes between family members. In one incident on 3 August, UNRWA staff members were severely beaten when trying to prevent the theft of food commodities designated for IDPs. This is occurring against the background of a general decline in law and order that preceded the current emergency, worsened by the lack of payment to security employees.
Outside shelters, the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) has registered about 20,600 displaced families (approximately 123,600 individuals) who are staying with relatives and friends. However, MoSA estimated that there are as many as 93,000 unregistered IDPs with host families. While the Rafah area saw a large displacement wave in the past few days, registration could not take place due to ongoing hostilities. Other families have not registered due to a range of reasons, including lack of awareness and the perception of no benefit associated with such registration. The total number of IDPs in shelters and with host families is therefore estimated at 520,000, or nearly 30 per cent of Gaza's population
By the end of the reporting period, four of the ten feeder lines supplying electricity from Israel to Gaza were operational, including three in northern Gaza and one in Khan Younis. The rest of the lines require repairs to be conducted on the Israeli side. Gaza's sole power plant remains shut down after being shelled on 29 July. Overall Gaza is now receiving 76 megawatts (MWs) of electricity, including 48MWs purchased from Israel and 28MWs from Egypt, meeting around 16 per cent of the estimated demand.
Rolling power cuts stand now at between 20 and 22 hours per day. This is affecting private households, companies and public services provision, including water, sanitation and health facilities. Access to food is also increasingly affected: bakeries cannot meet the additional demand for bread, triggered by the lack of electricity in households, while the inaccessibility of agricultural lands has resulted in fewer fresh crops and a significant increase in prices for some vegetables.
Key humanitarian priorities
Protection of civilians: ensuring respect for the IHL principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack.
Humanitarian space: increased access for humanitarian workers to carry out life-saving activities, for example, through regular and meaningful humanitarian pauses or corridors for the evacuation of the injured. This is needed among other reasons, to complete search and rescue operations in several areas, and repair critical water and electricity infrastructure.
Additional fuel supply: needed to operate backup generators at essential facilities, including water, sanitation and health, for longer hours.
Scale up response to IDPs: additional shelters are needed to reduce overcrowding and accommodate new IDPs, alongside the replenishment of food, water and hygiene materials, and NFI stocks. Assistance for IDPs living with host families also needs to be increased, particularly the provision of NFIs and water and hygiene kits.
Field teams and humanitarian partners are in the field carrying out assessments today, for inclusion in this section tomorrow.
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, a proposal by Palestinian Medical Relief Society — PMRC for Emergency Intervention (totalling US$ 249,845) to build community support teams in Gaza Strip, 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:
Katleen Maes, Head of the humanitarian Emergency Operations Center in Gaza, email@example.com, +972 59 291 1047
Yehezkel Lein, Head of Analysis, Communications and Protection Unit, OCHA oPt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 54 331 1809
For media enquiries, please contact:
Hayat Abu-Saleh, Communications and Information Analyst, OCHA oPt, email@example.com, +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.