Question of Palestine home
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
31 March 2008
Overview - Key Issues
Overview of Developments in the Gaza Strip
On 27 February, violence significantly increased between the IDF and Palestinian militants. This followed the killing of five Hamas fighters in an Israeli air strike and the launching of 73 rockets from Gaza which hit Sderot, Ashkelon and other areas in southern Israel, resulting in the death of a 47-year old Israeli man in Sderot. Between 27 February and 4 March, the IDF staged a large military operation into Gaza (named "Hot Winter"). During the operation, 120 Palestinians (including 34 children) were killed and 269 (at least 65 children) were injured. At least 55 of those killed and 104 of those injured were civilians not involved in fighting. During the same period, three Israelis were killed (including two IDF soldiers) and 36 were injured (including 1 child, 16 other civilians and 19 IDF soldiers). (For more details on the incursion, see OCHA, Gaza Humanitarian Situation Update, 3 March 2007, http:// www.ochaopt.org). The IDF incursion exacerbated the deteriorating humanitarian situation due to the near total blockade of Gaza since June 2007.
Shortages of goods remained in February due to the intensified closure of Gaza crossings. Most urgently needed goods were fuel, spare parts and basic necessities, i.e. shoes, fresh meats, dairy, produce. Earlier in the month, the Israeli government carried out its threat to further reduce the amount of electricity available to Gaza. The cut was less than proposed, but added to the existing shortfall of 60 MW, which caused power cuts of eight hours per day everywhere in Gaza, except Rafah, throughout February.1 Fuel supply to the Gaza power station remained stable at 2.2 million litres per week, which enabled it to produce 55-60 MW out of a possible 80.
In February, Israel allowed around 70,000 litres of petrol and 700,000 litres of diesel per week to enter Gaza, 27% and 30% of Gaza's estimated requirements. The fuel shortages were exacerbated by the Association of Gas Station Owners, who at points during the month refused to distribute the fuel in protest of the small amounts that Israel allowed in. Gaza's water authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) was badly affected and was unable to treat sewage, lacking fuel to power sewage pumps during power cuts and spare parts for the treatment plant. An average of 40 - 60 million litres (40,000 - 60,000 cm) of sewage were piped into the Mediterranean Sea every day (20,000 cm raw, 20,000 - 40,000 cm partially treated).
Impact of IDF "Hot Winter" Incursion on Health Care in Gaza
During the incursion that began on 27 February, the Ministry of Health (MoH) declared a state of emergency in all MoH hospitals and elective surgical operations were suspended. All health personnel were required to report to work and some were redeployed to other facilities as needed. All ambulance drivers were on call. The MoH reported that 85 essential drug items, 52 medical supply items and 24 laboratory reagents items (chemicals and materials used for laboratory testing) were out of stock and urgently needed by MoH facilities.2 The existence of medical equipment -- especially that needed for treating emergency cases -- that failed to function, primarily due to lack of spare parts and maintenance, further restricted the MoH's ability to respond to the high number of casualties. Fuel for emergency generators was sufficient for a maximum of only five days depending on the daily outage of electricity. By the end of February, fuel was depleted in 30 out of the 97 ambulances, a problem that was solved the following day as the Association of Gas Station Owners decided to supply the MoH vehicles with the required amounts of fuel. During the incursion, the internal referral system was maintained, except as related to casualties in areas under curfew - some 15,000 Palestinians live in the six areas that were under curfew. The MoH issued referral documents for 11 urgent casualties to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Three of them were issued permits and crossed Erez, while one was issued a permit on the same day that he died in Shifa hospital. Due to the delay in receiving permits, the other seven patients were evacuated to Egyptian hospitals through Rafah Border Crossing.
Complete document in PDF format