22 November 2012 at 16:00
The Israeli military operation intensified during the last hours before the ceasefire, causing further damage and destruction. Negotiations supported by Egypt and the United States resulted in the announcement of a ceasefire at 21:00 on Wednesday.
Read more: Emergency in Gaza
Rocket firing by Palestinian militants also increased, but stopped shortly after the announcement of the ceasefire. Over 1,500 rockets were fired into Israeli territory during the escalation.
The end of eight days of fighting has been received with great relief by the population of Gaza, although the calm is still very fragile.
Over 1,500 targets were hit by the Israeli military. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 140 Palestinians (90 civilians) were killed and 1,202 were injured since 14 November 2012, when the security situation deteriorated.
As soon as the ceasefire was announced, heavy shooting in the air and celebrations started all over the Gaza Strip. One fatality was caused by a stray bullet. On Wednesday, Hamas called for large gatherings at noon to celebrate the victory.
The population in Gaza will need time to return to normal; the last eight days have been extremely distressing. Despite the suffering and exhaustion, people are eager to move forward.
Municipalities all over the Gaza Strip have immediately started to clean up and remove rubble. Voices in the population expressed their gratitude for this, but also for excellent services provided during the escalation, particularly by the emergency departments of the hospitals. The sick, injured, and their relatives in Shifa Hospital were impressed with the health staff who handled the crisis. The heavy media presence and delegation visits were handled very professionally, and overall patients received timely treatment.
Shops started reopening and it is expected that on Saturday opening times should be back to normal. (Friday is a public holiday.)
No severe shortages have been reported. All hope this can be avoided, as the content of the ceasefire agreement also announced the opening of the crossings.
Damages done to the tunnels are currently being assessed. Fuel started being pumped through again, albeit less than prior to the escalation.
Gaza: facts and figures
The security situation in Gaza has improved with the end of the military escalation. The ceasefire is still very fragile and some Gazans fear that military activities could resume very violently should the ceasefire fail.
The number of displaced people seeking shelter in UNRWA schools rose to almost 12,000 yesterday. With the announcement of the ceasefire, those displaced began rapidly departing shelters to return to their homes. As of 15:00 today, there are no displaced people sheltering in UNRWA schools.
Yesterday, UN Mine Action Centre (UNMAS) began conducting short UXO-risk education sessions at UNRWA shelters. Informational messaging is also being aired on UNRWA’s satellite TV channel to ensure that children understand the seriousness of the matter. A longer-term, school-based initiative will soon be launched.
UNRWA’s maintenance team is conducting an assessment of the 14 schools that were used as shelters, as well as making minor repairs to prepare the schools to receive students on Saturday.
Early estimations show that a large number of refugee shelters have been damaged; there are approximately 100 shelters completely damaged, up to 200 with major damage, and potentially thousands are likely to have light or minor damages. The assessment teams, composed of an engineer and a social worker, will begin by assessing shelters located in the immediate proximity of the strikes. UNRWA shelter unit expects that the assessment will be completed in about one month.
On Saturday, UNRWA schools will resume providing education to 225,000 children who have missed six days of school. The Agency will incorporate psycho-social support activities when welcoming these students back to school on Saturday.
Given the damage to a number of UNRWA schools, some of which cannot be repaired quickly, the education department will accommodate some students in extra classrooms or shifts. Returning to school will have a positive role in helping to restore normality and to support those children who are struggling with some of the psychological effects of the week’s violence.
The UN Mine Action Team visited four UNRWA schools (one in Gaza and three in the Middle Area) that are either heavily damaged or have significant amounts of rubble. The visits will ensure that there are no dangerous remnants from the conflict and that cleaning can safely begin.
During the conflict, attendance of medical staff was at 96 per cent, while the number of patients was 122 per cent above normal levels. An increase of patients seeking care at the health centres is expected across the Gaza Strip next week.
Today, all 12 distribution centres and 20 of the 21 health centres were operating. UNRWA sanitation services and water provision were fully active today.
All UNRWA operations will return to normal on Sunday. However, the Agency now has the increased task of assessing both the physical and psychological damage caused by this conflict. With the current funding shortfalls of the Agency, this will be a very difficult task.
No casualties with an UNRWA connection were reported.
No reported damage to UNRWA installations.
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