|One civilian killed and 10 injured in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA)
The two-week reporting period saw an increase in the number of shooting incidents and resulting casualties in the context of the Israeli enforcement of access restrictions in areas near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, as well as in fishing areas along the coast. Also during this period, Palestinian armed groups fired a number of projectiles towards Israel, one of which resulted in limited property damage in southern Israel, while the majority fell short of their targets within the Gaza Strip, resulting in no casualties or damage.
On 20 December, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian man and injured another in an area next to the fence, north of Beit Hanoun. An investigation by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) indicated that the two were shot without prior warning while collecting scrap metal and plastic, and that an ambulance attempting to enter the area to evacuate the person injured was delayed by the Israeli forces for some 45 minutes.
Another eight civilians were injured during the reporting period in seven similar incidents along the ARA. In one event, a militant was injured by IDF gunfire near the fence. In two other incidents, Israeli forces opened warning fire at Palestinian civilians who reportedly attempted to cross into Israel, resulting in no injuries. Additionally, in at least five occasions during this period, the Israeli navy shot at Palestinian fishing boats sailing near the 6 NM limit, forcing them ashore.
Despite the increase in violence compared to previous weeks, the number of civilian deaths and injuries in the ARA recorded so far in 2013 (5 and 59 respectively) remain well below the relevant figures in previous years.
Winter storm exacerbates dire humanitarian situation in Gaza
The impact of the severe energy crisis affecting the Gaza Strip in recent months has been exacerbated by heavy rains between 10 and 14 December, which caused severe flooding and damage to homes, agriculture and livelihoods. Approximately 1,400 families (11,000 individuals) were evacuated to temporary shelters and about 1,500 families to relatives’ homes at the height of the storm. Most people have returned to their homes or rented accommodation as of 17 December.
Some 10 days after the heavy rains, some areas remain flooded, particularly in the Sheikh Radwan area of Gaza City where the storm water pond was almost completely full prior to the heavy rainfall. The remaining flooding as well as storm water mixing with sewage raises public health concerns. The fragile water and sewage infrastructure, which had already been stretched beyond its capacity and partly non-operational due to the energy crisis, was at the root of the flooding experienced in Gaza.
[For further information on the impact of the storm, as well as the various responses provided by humanitarian actors, see OCHA’s Situation Reports and the upcoming December Humanitarian Bulletin].
Gaza Power Plant resumes operations following fuel donation
On 15 December, a month and a half after it totally shut down, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) partially resumed operations following a US$10 million grant by the government of Qatar, which allowed for the fuel purchase. Some 3.1 million litres of fuel purchased in Israel for the GPP have entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom Crossing, which exceptionally opened on Friday 13 December to facilitate this transfer. Since then the GPP has been producing around 60 megawatts of electricity, reducing rolling blackouts from 16 to 12 hours per day in most areas.
The GPP was forced to shut down on 1 November as its fuel reserves had run out following an effective halt in the smuggling of fuel and goods via illegal tunnels under the Egyptian border. The resulting crisis has been prolonged by the lack of agreement between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah concerning the funding of fuel from alternative sources, including Israel.
Additionally, on 18 December the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) announced that equipment required to finish the first phase of the expansion of sea water desalination plant had successfully entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom Crossing. Six truckloads of electrical and mechanical equipment had entered Gaza which would enable the plant to increase the water production capacity. The project had been halted for approximately a year due to the lack of necessary equipment.
Cooking gas shortage continues despite increased imports
Between 15 and 21 December, 1,167 tons of cooking gas entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing, constituting the largest amount of cooking gas in a single week since July 2009. This increase, however, has fallen short of meeting current demand. Similarly to other critical goods, the supply of cooking gas to the Gaza Strip has been severely cut due to the halt in tunnel smuggling. At the same time, the demand has grown due to the weather conditions, as well as to run transportation given the fuel shortages.