09 July 2015
30 June - 07 July 2015/Issue 100
• Today marks one year since the commencement of the 2014 conflict in Gaza and UNRWA’s 100th Gaza Situation Report, providing important updates about the Agency’s continued emergency response and its ongoing programmes and operations in service to Palestine refugees. Despite small glimmers of progress, the continuing need and demand for the publication of these weekly reports indicates that the emergency situation in Gaza is far from over. Gaza’s people still live amongst rubble and the world has broken its promises about rebuilding the enclave. Behind every conflict are individual stories. As a reminder of this, and in line with the one year anniversary of the escalation of hostilities, UNRWA has compiled a photo essay to give voice to displaced mothers, frightened children, frustrated fathers, brave UNRWA staff members, hopeful teenagers, dreaming students, struggling business owners and young talented poets. Entitled "50 voices for 50 days of conflict: Gaza in its own words," the essay is a collection of words and photos from the past 12 months. Please followthis link during the next 50 days to connect with their stories.
• One year after the beginning of last summer’s conflict, UNRWA is this week assisting the first 35 refugee families with the reconstruction of their totally destroyed homes. Immediately after the residential stream of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) was announced two weeks ago, UNRWA submitted applications for 86 families which had their documentation ready; all of them were approved within a week and these first 35 can now commence the rebuilding process. This support is part of a German funded project and represents the very first families to receive assistance to rebuild their homes. Robert Turner, Director of Operations for UNRWA in Gaza stated that “the reconstruction process has been too slow, but it is a huge relief to be able to say we have started, and I am confident this is only the first of what will be a series of positive announcements.” With the funds secured from the German government, UNRWA is able to support 200 refugee families to rebuild their totally destroyed homes. In total, 9,117 refugee families have had their homes completely demolished during the 2014 summer hostilities. The Agency is in dialogue with other interested donors to fund reconstruction and hopes that with a functional mechanism donors will be encouraged to contribute.
• With incredible gratitude and respect, UNRWA this week bids farewell to its Director of Operations in Gaza, Mr. Robert Turner. Having worked for the Agency based in Gaza for over three years, Mr. Turner has led the organization through Agency response to two devastating conflicts. A long standing senior humanitarian aid and development professional, Mr Turner was able to utilise his vast experience during what has been one of the most difficult periods for the Agency with regards to its funding situation and the protracted conflict in Gaza. The Gaza Field Office thanks him for his decisive and strong leadership of operations in service to Palestine refugees. “Bob has made an extraordinary contribution to the work of UNRWA and Palestine refugees in Gaza. In very challenging times, especially during the conflict in Gaza last summer, he has displayed exemplary leadership. I thank him on behalf of all of us in the Agency and wish him and his family the very best in the future,” commented the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl on his departure. Mr. Sohail Al Hindi, the Chair of the Gaza Field Office Labour Staff Union executive committee, added: “We will remember him as a friend of the Palestinian people and wish him all the best for his career and his family.” UNRWA wishes Mr Turner every success as he takes up a senior government position in his native Canada. The Agency is at the same time pleased to announce the temporary return of Mr Christer Nordahl, UNRWA’s former deputy director, to take up the position of interim director of operations.
• In Gaza, due to the blockade and related access restrictions, more than 3,000 fishermen do not have access to 85 per cent of the maritime areas agreed on in the 1995 Oslo Accords; as a result, the fish catch – a principal part of the Gaza diet - has decreased dramatically over the years of closure, as the UN already warned in 2012. To support the livelihoods of fishermen in Gaza, the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC), in agreement with the Gaza Syndicate of Marine Fishers, has launched short-term vocational training courses to support young fishermen. Courses are offered in external fishing engine maintenance, electrical networks installation and maintenance and electricity generators maintenance. Each course includes 10 trainees selected by the Syndicate. The courses costs are technically and financially supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and implemented during the summer vacation. The Agency supports the fishermen also through its Job Creation Programme (JCP). Since 2006, 3,004 unskilled and 46 skilled fishermen have received JCP contracts. In April 2015, in cooperation with the fishermen syndicate, UNRWA renewed its support by providing short-term job opportunities to two groups of 200 unskilled fishermen for three months, in addition to six skilled foremen. The JCPs work mostly in the sector of net rehabilitation and general repair works.
• UNRWA TV is in the process of finalising a new season of educational episodes filmed in a revised format. The season will spearhead a total makeover of the educational UNRWA TV programme in 2015. The new education format will be launched in September and is part of UNRWA TV’s efforts to create a modern TV concept that is based on interactive multi-media sequences, including animation, infographics, documentaries or music clips. Based on a mapping exercise of school children’s competencies and skills in all five UNRWA fields throughout the region, UNRWA TV is shifting from following the national grade system to a regional, competency level-based programme. This gives UNRWA an enormous opportunity to reach out to refugee school children across the region with targeting and interesting lessons relevant to all irrespective of their national curricula. To ensure a successful end result, representatives from UNRWA education departments in all five fields will meet in Amman in the end of July to discuss different opportunities utilizing the new format and level system. All TV episodes are produced fully in Arabic language and are available at UNRWA TV YouTube account. UNRWA TV broadcasts on Nilesat throughout the entire region.
• In the beginning of July, 16 female over-aged students (those who have previously failed two or more years in school) started a two and a half months apprenticeship in private businesses all across Gaza; prior to the apprenticeships the girls have successfully completed a 6-months vocational training in food processing at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre (GTC). The GTC started its courses in 2010 in order to enhance the professional skills and employment opportunities of young Palestine refugees. UNRWA currently offers places for a total of 1,745 trainees through its two vocational training centres in Gaza city and in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Approximately 80 per cent of all participants are from vulnerable groups, including women and youth. Courses are offered in plumbing, painting, plastering, nursing and counselling, but also in photography or food processing technology. The vocational trainees usually enjoy 6 months of training in the centre and are then in a second phase placed in an apprenticeship to a private business outside UNRWA in order to acquaint themselves with practical application of their skills and understand how the labour market works.
• At the start of Ramadan, on 18 June, UNRWA has launched its global#SOS4Gaza campaign that features seven children from Beach Camp, a refugee camp in Gaza city, putting messages expressing their hopes and dreams in bottles, which they send to sea. Two weeks after its launch the campaign has already reached 2.6 million people on Facebook alone. The campaign video has been viewed over 400,000 times. The campaign is being advertised (pro-bono) by the MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Centre) network and will thus reach millions in the Arab world. UNRWA’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Youth and Arab Idol star, Mohammad Assaf, is also actively championing the campaign with numerous Facebook and Twitter posts. The campaign reaches out to a global audience with a message of hope and charity during Ramadan, by donating to UNRWA’s education programme in Gaza. A hand-made bottle from a local factory in Hebron can be bought online; each bottle contains a real drawing from children in Gaza. The bottles are being delivered to donors and partners by the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl as well as other senior UNRWA staff and national committees. The campaign has already been endorsed by the President of the Italian Parliament Laura Boldrini, the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo, and the two main political parties in the European Parliament. The campaign will run until 25 August
• In preparation of the Summer Fun Weeks (SFW) that will take place from 25 July to 13 August, the SFW team is currently distributing slides, castles and trampolines to 116 SFW locations across the Gaza Strip. Team members are also busily inspecting all the sites where activities for children will take place to prepare for an enjoyable, safe SFW 2015 experience. In addition, the SFW team is signing contracts with the remaining workers hired through the Job Creation Programme (JCP). In total, approximately 2,500 persons will be hired through the JCP for short-term SFW employment opportunities
• Shelter update:
• Due to the lack of funding, to date 51,039 families still have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 7,698 have not received the second tranche to continue repair works. UNRWA has processed these cases and they have received approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; as soon as funding is secured, the Agency can distribute the urgently needed financial support 3,116 families have not received their US$ 500 reintegration grant to replace lost household goods.
• As of 6 July, UNRWA engineers have confirmed 138,630 Palestine refugee houses as impacted during last summer’s conflict, 9,117 of them are considered totally demolished. In addition, 4,979 shelters have suffered severe, 3,635 major and 120,899 minor damages.
• The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has adopted a resolution based on the findings of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict. The resolution on “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” emphasizes “the need to ensure that all those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law are held to account through appropriate fair and independent domestic or international criminal justice mechanisms, and to ensure the provision of effective remedy to all victims, including reparations, and stresses the need to pursue practical steps towards these goals.” 41 countries of the 47 members of the council voted in favour of the resolution, the USA voted against and five countries (Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Macedonia and Paraguay) abstained from voting.
Operational environment: 8-year old children in Gaza have already lived through 3 cycles of armed conflicts and grow up in a place where “rubble lies on top of rubble” as the world does not hold its promises to reconstruct their homes. The devastating effects of repeated armed conflicts add to years of blockade, extreme poverty and shockingly high unemployment rates. With 1.8 million Palestinians “locked in” and denied free access to the rest of the world, the humanitarian impact of the blockade is enormous.
The political situation in Gaza became more tense during the reporting week; a wave of deadly attacks by Islamic State (IS) in Egypt’s northern Sinai near the Gaza border has left dozens of Egyptian soldiers and militants dead, as media reported. On 3 July militants in the Sinai reportedly fired rockets into southern Israel. Israel accused Hamas of having cooperated with IS in the Sinai attacks, as the Haaretz newspaper reported, which Hamas denied.
On 1 July a damaged house in Gaza city partially collapsed and four persons were injured. On 2 July a dispute between two families ended in the throwing of a sound bomb, which resulted in three injuries. A number of Palestinians were also accidentally injured due to celebratory gunfire to mark the Tawjihi high school results.
Regular protests occurred during the reporting week, mostly to rally support for Khader Adnan’s release after ending his 55 day hunger strike in an Israeli prison, or in favour of the Freedom Flotilla III that tried to break the blockade of Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli navy.
“WE WANT A CHANCE TO RAISE OUR CHILDREN AND SEE THEM GROW UP”
Fariz Husu’s family is one of the first 86 refugee families who, one year after the 2014 conflict started, were cleared this week through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism; they will soon receive construction material to rebuild their totally destroyed home.
“It was a happy surprise for me; I am so lucky that my name is included in the first list. I had almost lost hope, I did not expect this,” commented Fariz with a quiet smile on his face.
Since the complete destruction of his house in Shujjaiya, in eastern Gaza city, during the 2014 summer hostilities, the life of the family had completely changed. “Since the conflict, and over the past 12 months, my family has suffered a lot. We have lost our house and our stability, and even my bus which was my only source of income has been destroyed,” said Fariz who worked as bus driver prior to the conflict. “Our area is not the same; people are full of grief and sorrow because of their losses,” the 39-year old father of eight children added.
Standing on the empty lot where his four bed-room house once stood “with a nice view on our garden”, he said: “It is all gone; nothing is left but rubble.”
Shujjaiya in eastern Gaza city was one of the most heavily damaged neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip during the 50 days of hostilities. When the shelling became “so extensive and random,” as Fariz described it, his family fled to a designated UNRWA emergency shelter in Gaza city. Fariz recounted the memories of their escape:
“First, we were not able to leave the house, we were stuck, all laying on the floor, me and my family together with my sister, her children and her husband. It was so scary and terrifying. We called neighbours and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but no one was able to help us evacuate. One day early in the morning we reached a point where we had to run for safety; people were running with us, and the most painful was that we had to leave the ones who fell down behind as there was no time to go back and help them.”
The Husu family left the UNRWA Collective Centre in October 2014 upon receipt of rental subsidy payments through UNRWA and has since then “moved from one rented house to another,” as Fariz explained.
Although he has signed the undertaking with UNRWA to receive cash assistance for the reconstruction of his home, he remains concerned about the future.
“All I wish for is for us to live in peace, to be safe and to not have to suffer from more conflicts. We want a chance to raise our children and see them grow up,” he added.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the security fence or towards Palestinian boats on a regular basis.
On 1 July two Israeli tanks and four bulldozers entered approximately 200 meters into Gaza and conducted a clearing operation along the security fence.
On 3 July three rockets were fired from Sinai by Islamic State jihadist group’s affiliate in Egypt and landed in southern Israel without causing casualties.
US$ 216 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 504 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.
• The Rafah Crossing remained closed from 30 June to 7 July
• The Erez crossing was open for National ID holders (humanitarian cases, medical cases, merchants and UN staff) and for international staff from 30 June to 2 July and from 5 to 6 July. On 3 July, Erez crossing was open for pedestrians only. It was closed on 4 July.
• Kerem Shalom was open from 30 June to2 July and 5 to 6 July. It was closed on 3 and 4 July.