Protection of Civilians Weekly Report
1 - 8 January 2009
The severity of the electricity situation was underscored when on 5 January, generators at MoH ambulance stations, vaccines stores, labs and warehouses shut down for lack of fuel until UNRWA delivered fuel to the MoH. At Shifa hospital, generator failure could prove to be catastrophic as 70 intensive care patients, including 30 in the neonatal department, are reliant on machines.
Early in the week, hospitals were overwhelmed by the large influx of injured people. Patients are discharged as soon as possible to free beds for new casualties but intensive care units are still overstretched. Hospital capacity is approximately 2000 beds but only 164 of these are special care beds (28 general intensive care, 20 intensive coronary care, 8 in burns units, 10 pediatric intensive care, 98 neonatal). Safety of ambulances and medical staff is of major concern; the security situation prevents many medical staff from reaching hospitals, and ambulances experienced difficulty reaching the injured because of continuous fire. According to MoH, during the week six medical staff were killed and 30 injured; eleven ambulances were hit.
Medical supplies imported 30 December – 6 January
At the beginning of the Israeli operation, stocks of adequate medical equipment and spare parts were already low due to the 18-month long blockade. By 2 January, following a large influx of medical supplies in preceding days, the situation vis-à-vis medical supplies began stabilizing although some shortages remain at the hospital level. However, the medical supplies entering Gaza presented logistical challenges related to the cataloguing and management of supplies. Inventory and distribution efforts are on-going and all MoH hospitals had been reached by new supplies before the ground operation started. Intensive care units in hospitals remain overloaded and of limited capacity; the lack of medical specialists is also a problem. An ICRC surgical team entered on 5 January, supplying 1000 units of tetanus oxide for MoH hospitals. There is an urgent need for neurovascular, orthopedic, and cardio surgeons.
The Erez crossing was opened intermittently during the week to allow for the evacuation of eight medical cases and eight escorts to Israeli hospitals. Except for these cases, the PA MoH in Ramallah stopped authorizing the referral of patients from Gaza to medical treatment in Israel as in the past, referring patients to Egyptian hospitals instead. Since the beginning of hostilities, 134 patients crossed into Egypt through Rafah for external medical treatment. Of growing concern are the 700-1000 chronic medical patients who had been receiving regular treatment in Israel and East Jerusalem each month. The existing referral system though Erez for these patients has been disrupted.
Water and Sanitation
As of 7 January, 800,000 people in North Gaza, Gaza and the Middle Area are without running water supply. Sewage and water systems were considerable damaged during the week due to fighting, causing sewage-water flooding in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya. Conditions were further exacerbated when five of Gaza’s 37 waste-water pumping stations shut down due to lack of electricity fuel for back up generators. There is concern that current military operations could damage the sand walls of the Beit Lahiya sewage lagoon causing a massive sewage overflow. Up to 15,000 people are directly at risk. Two years ago, five people were killed and 2,000 displaced when the lagoon overflowed. The sewage situation is also dangerous, as it poses serious risks of the spread of water-borne disease.
On 2 January, airstrikes in the Al Mughraga area damaged a main drinking water pipe, cutting off water supplies to 30,000 people in Nuseirat Camp. In addition, according to the CMWU (Gaza’s water utility), 48 of Gaza’s 130 water wells are not functioning for lack of electricity, damage to the pipes or diminished fuel reserves on which its electricity generators depend. At least 45 additional water wells are operating only partially and in danger of shutting down without additional supplies of fuel and electricity. On 4 January, UNRWA donated 75,000 litres of fuel to CMWU. Due to prevailing security concerns, the CMWU faced difficulties in repairing damages to the networks because of security reasons.
Gaza crossings activity
The daily average of truckloads that entered Gaza during these last seven days of fighting were three times higher than the daily averages of truckloads that entered in the weeks preceding the outbreak of hostilities—67 truckloads per day (30 December-8 January) compared to 23 truckloads per day in November.
Most truckloads of food and medical supplies entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing during the reporting period, with a few exceptional shipments of medical supplies entering through Rafah from Egypt. In all, as of 8 January, a total of 469.5 truckloads entered through Kerem Shalom, and thirteen truckloads of medical supplies entered though Rafah.
The Erez crossing was opened intermittently during the week to allow for the evacuation of medical cases to Israeli hospitals. On 3 January, 226 foreign nationals, mainly spouses and Gaza residents and their children, left Gaza through Erez crossing.
Nahal Oz was closed during most of the reporting period but was opened on 5 January, allowing nearly 215,000 litres of Industrial fuel along with 47 tonnes of cooking gas have been pumped from Israel to Gaza. 100,000 litres of diesel have entered for UNRWA.
The conveyor belt located at Karni crossing, the only available mechanism for the import of wheat grain, remained closed during the week. This has resulted in the depletion of wheat grain stocks, forcing all six mills in the Gaza Strip to shut down.
Several cases of stone-throwing and Molotov throwing at Israeli vehicles travelling on main roads were also reported this week, particularly in the northern West Bank, though no casualties were reported. In two such cases, the IDF imposed curfews on the villages of An Nabi Elyas (Qalqiliya) and Huwwara (Nablus) for approximately 12 hours. In two cases the IDF occupied the roofs of Palestinian houses, using them as observation positions over main roads for two days.
The total number of Palestinians arrested this week by the Israeli security forces continued to increase and reached 116, compared to 75 and 56 during the previous two weeks.
On 2 and 3 January the Israeli authorities imposed a general closure on West Bank, preventing all Palestinians holding valid permits from entering East Jerusalem and Israel, excepting urgent medical cases and those working with UN and international agencies. On 2 January, Palestinian males aged 16-50 were prevented to cross Tappuah checkpoint southward, severing them from the central and southern West Bank.
Israeli court approval of the demolition of family home of Palestinian attacker
This week the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition objecting to the demolition of two of the four floors of a building in the East Jerusalem, ordered by the IDF. This building is the house of the extended family of the perpetrator of an attack against a Yeshiva (Jewish learning center) on March 2008, in which eight Israelis, including four children, as well as the perpetrator, were killed. Accordingly, the basement of the building, as well as two flats in the first floor, will be filled with concrete and sealed off. This is the first such “punitive” demolition order against the family of a deceased attacker, issued by the IDF since February 2005. At that time the Israeli Minister of Defense suspended punitive demolitions based on recommendations of a commission questioning the deterrent effect of such demolitions. Since the beginning of the second Intifada and until then, Israel has demolished over 600 housing units as a punitive measure.