Despite extensive repairs, electricity outages of 18 hours a day continue in most areas across Gaza, disrupting service provision.
An open-ended ceasefire brokered by the Egyptian government and agreed by the armed groups in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority and Israel entered into force yesterday at 19:00. If it continues to hold, this agreement will have ended the longest, deadliest and most destructive escalation in hostilities affecting the population of Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, with serious impact on Israelis as well.
The terms of the agreement, however, were not officially released. According to media reports, in addition to a complete cessation of military action by both sides, the agreement calls for a further opening of the crossings with Israel and Egypt to allow the easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment, alongside the transfer of control over the Gaza side of the crossings to the Palestinian Authority; a reinstatement of the six nautical miles fishing limit into the Mediterranean sea; and the relaxation of access restrictions into areas up to 100 metres from Gaza's perimeter fence with Israel. Other issues, including Hamas' demand to open a seaport and airport in Gaza and to release Palestinian prisoners, as well as Israel's demand to disarm militant groups in Gaza and obtain the remains of two Israeli soldiers, are expected to be dealt with in the context of indirect negotiations scheduled to start in a month.
This morning, as the ceasefire appeared to be holding, tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) begun to return to their homes, either to resettle, to assess damage or to collect belongings. However, it is estimated that over 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, rendering more than 108,000 people homeless. The provision of temporary housing solutions to these people is one of the major challenges facing the local authorities and the humanitarian community in the coming period. Additionally, the mass movement of civilians, children in particular, into areas that were intensively targeted by airstrikes and shelling, raises once again the concern about Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). This poses an imperative on all relevant actors to adopt immediate measures to prevent further casualties, including the rapid clearance of built up areas and critical facilities, and awareness raising campaigns amongst the most vulnerable.
|[...] A brighter future for Gaza and for Israel depends on a sustainable ceasefire. It is up to the parties to live up to this responsibility... Any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence. Gaza must be brought back under one legitimate Palestinian Government adhering to the PLO commitments; the blockade of Gaza must end; Israel's legitimate security concerns must be addressed... The Secretary-General urgently calls on both parties to return to meaningful negotiations towards a final status agreement that addresses all core issues and ends the 47-year occupation.
Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, 26 August
Hostilities and casualties
Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian mortar and rocket fire continued yesterday uninterruptedly until 19:00, resulting in additional casualties on both sides, alongside significant property losses in Gaza.
Since the last situation update, at least three Palestinians have reportedly been killed, including two children. This brings the cumulative death toll among Palestinians since 7 July to at least 2,104, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 377 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. Of the initially verified cases, 1,462 are believed to be civilians, including 495 children and 253 women, and 265 members of armed groups. Additionally, approximately 25 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have reportedly been killed in Gaza by armed groups since 21 August (not included in the fatality toll above).
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 20 August, 10,224 Palestinians, including 3,106 children and 1,970 women and 368 elderly, have been injured. Preliminary estimates indicate that up to 1,000 of the children injured will have a permanent disability.
In one of the yesterday's incidents, at around 13:15, a vehicle belonging to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCO) travelling in Beit Lahia town was directly hit by an Israeli air strike, reportedly killing two workers on their way to repair transmission lines damaged during previous bombardments. Since the start of the Gaza emergency, at least 14 electricity, water and waste water technicians employed by local utilities have been killed during Israeli attacks and at least ten other have been injured.
Also yesterday in Beit Lahia, at around 18:30, an Israeli air strike targeted and destroyed a five-storey building, comprising ten apartments, resulting in no casualties. This is the sixth high-rise building to be razed to the ground since Sunday, in the context of policy of intensified destruction of structures alleged by the Israeli military to be the 'command centres' of armed groups or from whose vicinity projectiles have been fired. This policy has added to the number of displaced and depleted the number of housing units available to the long-term homeless.
While most of the rockets and mortars shot yesterday by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into southern Israel fell in open areas or were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, one of the mortars hit and killed two Israeli men, one of whom was a civilian while the status of the other is unclear. This brings the cumulative Israeli fatality toll to 69, of whom at least four were civilians, including one child, in addition to one foreign national killed in Israel. Dozens of other Israelis, including at least six children, have been directly injured by rockets or shrapnel.
Despite the announcement of the ceasefire, the vast majority of IDPs spent the night in shelters and with host families. As of yesterday evening, their number was estimated at 475,000 persons, including over 289,000 hosted in 85 designated UNRWA schools, 35,000 in seven government shelters supported by UNRWA, nearly 14,000 registered in 17 government schools managed by MoSA, and some 141,000 residing with host families, who have been registered and reached by various partners.
Today, as the ceasefire appeared to be holding, there has been a massive movement of IDPs out of emergency shelters. As of this afternoon, almost 233,000 IDPs had left the UNRWA shelters and approximately 54,300 remained. New estimates of the number of IDPs in government schools and with host families were not available at the time of writing. It remains uncertain how many of the IDPs left temporarily, for example to gather personal items from their homes, to return for the night.
There has been also significant displacement in southern Israel, particularly among communities which are in range of mortar fire from Gaza, which the Iron Dome system is unable to intercept. Many families had evacuated at the beginning of the conflict in July, relocating to family and friends in more northerly locations, but returned during the extended ceasefire period, only to evacuate their homes again since the resumption of hostilities last week. This movement has reportedly intensified after the killing of a four-year-old boy in one of the affected communities by a mortar shell fragment on Friday, with hundreds reportedly leaving yesterday. According to some sources, as many as 70 per cent of the 40,000 residents of communities near Gaza may have left their homes. Media reports have indicated that the ceasefire has not triggered so far significant return to these communities.
Water and electricity
Following the ceasefire, GEDCO teams resumed intensive repairs of damaged electricity lines. However, only little progress was achieved so far in the areas that sustained the most severe damage, such as Beit Hanoun, Eastern Gaza city, Johr Ad Deik, Al Bureij, Al Maghazi, Khuza'a and East of Rafah. Therefore, scheduled power cuts across Gaza continue for up to 18 hours per day, on average, with Gaza City suffering 20 hours of outages per day. While nine of the ten Israeli feeder lines are working, the Gaza Power Plant remains off, following the damage sustained by an Israeli airstrike on 29 July.
The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility estimates that 75 per cent of the water network has been rendered functional after receiving emergency repairs and supplies water on a regular basis. As a result, 25 per cent of the population, located in Gaza city and Jabalia, receive water supply for six to eight hours once every five days; 50 per cent receives water supply once every four days; 15 per cent, located in Rafah, receive water supply once every two days; and 10 per cent receive water supply once a day.
Nearly half a million children in Gaza were unable to return to primary and secondary schools this week, the scheduled start to the new academic year. Schools currently used as shelters will require varying degrees of rehabilitation in order to be ready for normal schooling. Initial repairs must also be carried out in war-damaged schools, and unexploded ordnance will need to be cleared to restore safety. UNRWA is coordinating with the Ministry of Education a three-phase plan. The first phase expands ongoing psychosocial activities; the second phase involves enhancing learning skills; and the third phase will be a return to education in school buildings.
Key humanitarian priorities:
Temporary shelter and housing solutions to IDPs: immediate and short term plans to accommodate the tens of thousands of families who were rendered homeless are urgently needed.
Sustained opening of crossing: is vital, alongside the removal of restrictions on the entry of materials for rehabilitations and reconstruction.
Explosive Remnants of War (ERW): rapid clearance of built-up areas and critical facilities, as well as awareness raising campaigns amongst the most vulnerable, are urgently needed.
Additional fuel supply: fuel is needed to operate backup generators at essential facilities, including water, sanitation and health, for longer hours.
|Erez: Open for movement during normal working hours (08:00-16:00). |
Belt Hanoun (Arba-Arba): Operational.
Kerem Shalom: Open as per its regular operating hours (08:00-16:00).
Rafah: Open from 09:00 to 15:00.
Humanitarian needs and response
The Logistics Cluster is requesting a list of sector cargo priorities for the Gaza humanitarian response in case all cargo requests cannot be delivered in a timely manner due to the security crossing process.
On 25 August, UNDP and OCHA met with the Minister of Public Works and Housing and the Minister of Social Affairs, as well as a representative of the Palestinian Energy Authority and the Manager of the Gaza Power Plant to discuss the energy situation in Gaza and possible ways forward. OCHA provided information on the impact of the lack of electricity on the humanitarian situation and emergency fuel distributions as coordinated by OCHA and delivered by UNRWA. One of the outcomes of the meeting was that a task force of key actors would be established to work in a more concerted way on energy issues; it was proposed that the task force would be chaired by the Palestinian Energy Authority.
The first phase of the joint rapid needs assessment, led by the EOC started on 13 August, and data analysis is ongoing. The second phase of the joint rapid needs assessment started on 18 August, covering 19 municipalities (some 80 assessment staff were involved and at least 250 key informants interviewed, including youth, persons with disabilities and elderly). The remaining six municipalities were covered on 19 August and the eight refugee camps will be covered as soon. Data collected will be entered on tablets and linked directly to a database. The information will be subsequently validated and analyzed, before it is disseminated. Protection and gender concerns have been integrated throughout the process as have questions on the information needs of affected communities. Clusters and sectors are currently engaged in ongoing analysis of the data generated from the two level needs assessments.
Yesterday, UNRWA issued a revised version of its Flash Appeal which requests US $296 million to cover immediate and basic needs during hostilities of up to 360,000 IDPs staying in emergency shelters and families not staying in shelters during hostilities who require food assistance. The appeal also requests support for those who will remain displaced or to support the return of IDPs following cessation of hostilities. A revised version of the Crisis Appeal will follow next week.
Based on available information, funding to the Gaza Crisis Appeal stands at approximately US $177 million out of a total request of US $367 million (48 per cent); the vast majority of this represents funding for UNRWA, as well as US $20 million for WFP food assistance, leaving large gaps to respond in other critical sectors such as Health, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Education and Shelter and Non Food Items. Many key UN and NGOs partners identified for the Gaza response have received little to no funding to date for their projects in the Crisis Appeal. The Crisis Appeal is available online at www.ochaopt.org. Donors and recipient agencies are kindly requested to report funding received to email@example.com.
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. To date, 13 project proposals were approved for a total of US $3.1 million Further funding for the ERF is still being sought.
UN humanitarian agencies, in cooperation with NGO partners have applied to the CERF Rapid Response window to cover urgent needs in food assistance, psychosocial support, WASH, rubble removal and critical drugs.
|Background to the crisis
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:
Ms. Katleen Maes, Head of the humanitarian Emergency Operations Center in Gaza, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 592 911 047
Mr. Ray Dolphin, Analysis, Communications and Protection Unit, OCHA oPt, email@example.com, +972 54 331 1827
For media enquiries, please contact:
Ms.Hayat Abu-Saleh, Communications and Information Analyst, OCHA oPt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 (0) 54 3311816 For more information, please visit www.ochaopt.org
1Data 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.
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