The Israeli ground incursion into Gaza continues, resulting in a high level of civilian casualties, the widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure and a steep rise in internally displaced persons (IDPs). While Ash Shuja'iyeh neighborhood continues to be one of the focus areas of hostilities, the reporting period witnessed a number of incidents in which multiple members of the same family were killed by Israeli airstrikes in other areas of the Gaza Strip. In all these cases, according to the preliminary reports, those killed were in, or adjacent to, their homes at the time of the attack.
In the most serious reported incident, at approximately 20:00 on 20 July, an Israeli plane fired a missile at a three-storey house in Bani Suheila, eastern Khan Yunis, in which a number of families live, destroying the house. Among the victims were the owner, Tawfiq Abu Jame', his mother, wife, and seven of his children, aged from four to 14. In total, rescue crews have recovered 25 bodies, including 18 children and 5 women, two of whom were reportedly pregnant. According to information received, a member of an armed group was visiting the house when the airstrike took place
Since 7 to 21 July, hundreds of homes have reportedly been directly targeted by Israeli airstrikes, with an estimated 472 houses totally destroyed or severely damaged, causing civilian casualties and displacing the survivors. Thousands of housing units have also sustained damage. There are serious concerns about reports from human rights organizations regarding several incidents where civilians or civilian objects have been directly hit by Israeli airstrikes, in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the close vicinity. Such cases raise concerns whether the strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Full respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack, during the conduct of hostilities, as required by international humanitarian law should be ensured.
From 7 July as of today 14.00, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, at least 479 Palestinians, including at least 364 civilians (76 per cent of total fatalities), have been killed by Israeli air, naval and ground strikes in Gaza. These figures included 121 children and 59 women, 76 members of armed groups and 39 persons whose status is yet unknown. Since the last situation update, 103 persons have been reported killed, including 34 children and 21 women. This number also includes those killed during the bombardment of Ash Shuja'iyeh, whose bodies were retrieved only yesterday afternoon. As the evacuation of persons killed in Ash Shuja'iyeh was halted in the late afternoon of 20 July, and only continued in the late afternoon of 21 July, the number of fatalities and injured is believed to be higher.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 3,504 Palestinians, including 1,100 children and 608 women, had been injured as at 12.00 a.m. on 21 July.
The ground incursion has led to an exponential increase in the number of IDPs. By this afternoon, UNRWA was hosting over 100,000 in 69 schools operating as emergency shelters, including all UNRWA schools in Gaza city. This is up from 47,000 persons hosted in 36 shelters on 18 July. Over 15,200 IDPs, whose homes have been destroyed or damaged, are hosted by relatives and neighbors. Additionally, tens of thousands of IDPs have taken refuge elsewhere in Gaza, including in government schools, open spaces and unfinished buildings. Apart from the protection of civilians and the evacuation and treatment of those injured, the main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the provision of food, water, mattresses and hygiene items to those displaced, as well as fuel to essential water, health and solid waste facilities. Some 25 per cent of all WASH facilities have no electricity due to damage to electricity lines and transformers and rely on generators only.
Indiscriminate firing by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into Israel also continued, with most falling in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome system. In total two Israeli civilians have been killed from rocket and mortar fire since the start of hostilities and at least 20, who were injured by shrapnel, have been treated by the Magen David Adom. On Monday, the Israeli authorities reported seven more soldiers killed, bringing the death toll of soldiers to 25 since the beginning of the ground incursion.
Humanitarian needs and response
Gaps & Constraints
The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has set up an emergency operations room, led by the Minister for Social Affairs. The operations room will coordinate the response with Gaza, focusing on data collection and analysis; communication with the international community; facilitation of entry of aid; resource mobilization and communications with the Palestinian leadership. The operations room secretariat is made up of representatives of line ministries, UN agencies, AIDA and PNGO.
Coordination of assistance for the new influx of IDPs into Ministry of Education-run schools is overseen by the Ministry of Social Affairs through local municipal committees. Challenges include response and coordination capacity, access and registration. The UN is working with authorities to support coordination and response.
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 is 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. All estimates are based on initial information; however, needs are growing and revisions, as new assessments come in, will be communicated to donors.
UNRWA has issued an emergency flash appeal with an initial ask of $60 million to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the tens of thousands taking shelter in its facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to needs in shelter, food, health and psychosocial of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 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.
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. 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, lein©un.org, +972 54 331 1809
For media enquiries, please contact:
Hayat Abu-Saleh, Communications and Information Analyst, OCHA oPt, abusaleh©un.org, +972 (0) 54 3311816
For more information, please visit www.ochaopt.org
1 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.