This report is produced by OCHA oPt in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 24 July (1500 hrs) to 25 July (1500 hrs). The next report will be issued on 26 July.
Amidst reports about high-level negotiations for a ceasefire, the Israeli ground offensive continued in most areas, up to three kilometers from the Gaza’s perimeter fence, resulting in additional civilian casualties and widespread destruction. The insecurity affecting the civilian population intensified yesterday afternoon, when an UNRWA school serving as an emergency shelter was hit by projectiles, killing and injuring dozens of IDPs. In a separate incident several hours later, two ambulances were hit while on duty. These incidents underscore the challenges impeding humanitarian actors from carrying out even the most basic life-saving activities, such as providing a safe haven for civilians or evacuating the wounded, adding to the growing despair and frustration among Gaza’s men, women and children.
Hostilities and casualties
Intense fighting has been reported in the past 24 hours in the Middle Area (Al Maghazi and Al Bureij Camps), alongside the ongoing hostilities in the northern area, especially in Beit Hanoun. Since the last situation update, 68 persons have reportedly been killed, including at least ten children and nine women. These include a number of people killed during the bombardment in Khuza’a on 23 July, whose bodies were retrieved during this period, after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) coordinated access to the area. Similar search and rescue operations, including the evacuation of civilians, were carried out by ICRC and PRCS today in Beit Hanoun and Ash Shuja’iyeh (eastern Gaza City).
The fatalities include 11 IDPs, including seven children, taking refuge in UNRWA’s Beit Hanoun elementary school, which yesterday at around 15:00 was hit by explosive projectiles. Over 100 other IDPs have been injured in the incident. The school’s coordinates had been formally conveyed to the Israeli army on 12 occasions. Prior to the incident, UNRWA had been attempting to negotiate with the Israeli army for a safe corridor to relocate staff and any displaced person who chose to evacuate to a more secure location; approval for that never came. This followed three previous incidents in the past few days in which UNRWA shelters had been hit.
Incidents of ambulances being hit are of increasing concern. Yesterday around midnight, a Ministry of Health ambulance was hit several times during an Israeli attack in Khan Youths; civilians who tried to evacuate the ambulance staff,
reportedly came under fire, which injured three of them. When a PRCS ambulance arrived at the site and tried to evacuate the wounded, several missiles were shot next to it, injuring the driver and damaging the vehicle. Initial reports indicate that a similar incident occurred today in Beit Hanoun, resulting in the death of one paramedic and four injuries.
Under international humanitarian law, medical facilities, transportation and personnel shall be respected and protected in all circumstances, and must be allowed to carry out their duties, including in the collection, transport and treatment of the injured, at all times without hindrance. Parties to the conflict must take all measures to ensure access to those in need and must facilitate their safe evacuation.
The cumulative fatality toll among Palestinians is at least 857 as of 14.00 today, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources. This includes at least 649 civilians (76 per cent of total fatalities); 122 members of armed groups; and 86 persons whose status is still unknown.
Since the launch of the Israeli military operation, hundreds of homes have reportedly been directly targeted by Israeli airstrikes, and it is estimated that about 650 residential properties (including multi-storey buildings) have been totally destroyed or severely damaged, causing hundreds of civilian casualties and displacing the survivors. To date, at least 42 families have lost three or more family members in the same incident, for a total of 253 fatalities, since the onset of the emergency. This represents an important loss of social fabric in Gaza.
Despite a decrease since the start of the ground offensive, indiscriminate firing by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into southern and central Israel continued, with most falling in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome system, resulting in no additional fatalities. Since 8 July, three civilians in Israel have been killed, including one foreign national, and a few dozen directly injured by rockets or shrapnel. Two soldiers have been killed during the reporting period bringing the Israeli military fatalities since the beginning of the ground offensive to 37.
As a result of ongoing hostilities, thousands of Palestinians have continued to flee their homes in search of a safe haven. As of this afternoon, UNRWA was hosting about 159,000 IDPs in 84 schools operated as emergency shelters, additional 10,000 compared to a day before. It is estimated that nearly 9,000 IDPs are residing in 11 government schools and public buildings. This is in addition to the approximately 20,000 individuals who have been displaced, and are now hosted by friends or relatives as destruction or damage to their homes has rendered them uninhabitable.
Humanitarian actors are facing severe challenges in reaching some of the shelters to provide basic supplies, particularly in the northern (Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia) and middle (Bureij and Maghazi) areas, due to the ongoing hostilities taking place in these areas.
The halt in water supply to several shelters due to damaged or inaccessible infrastructure is of increasing concern. While UNRWA and Oxfam are delivering water tankers to those shelters, some have become inaccessible. The UNRWA shelter in Maghazi, for example, has not received water for four days, and IDPs have been dependent on help from neighbors and the municipality.
Public infrastructure and services
Today afternoon, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) was able to partially resume operations, after repairing the damage sustained on 23 July, and following the delivery of some 300,000 liters of fuel. The latter will enable the plant to run two turbines for the next two days. Two feeder lines supplying electricity from Israel to the middle and southern area that were damaged several days ago have been repaired as well. However, rolling power cuts of about 20 hours per day continue and many households remain disconnected due to the extensive damage sustained by the distribution network.
The impact of hostilities on the functioning of health services raises particular concern. As the number of injuries grows, the coping capacity of health professionals, working under extreme and insecure conditions, is increasingly overstretched. A media report from the maternity ward of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City highlighted increased numbers of miscarriages, premature births, and child mortality amongst pregnant women. Access to obstetric care is limited due to the hostilities, while many health facilities providing obstetric care are not operating. Several of the over 100 women killed since the start of the emergency were reportedly pregnant, including three belonging to the Abu Jama’a family, whose house near Khan Youths was bombed on 20 July, killing 25 people.
Key humanitarian priorities
Protection of civilians: ensuring respect for the IHL principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack.
Humanitarian space: increased access for humanitarian workers to carry out life-saving activities, for example, through regular and meaningful humanitarian pauses. This is needed among other reasons, to complete search and rescue operations in several areas; reach IDPs and families in northern Gaza; and repair critical water and electricity infrastructure.
Scale up response to IDPs: additional shelters are needed to reduce overcrowding and accommodate new IDPs, alongside the replenishment of food, water, and NFI stocks. Assistance for IDPs living with host families also needs to be increased, particularly the provision of NFIs and water.
Humanitarian needs and response
Ongoing hostilities continue to impede movement of child protection staff and emergency PSS teams, as well as access to basic services for children and their families
Increased hostilities and major electricity outages since 18 July hamper communication with PSS staff.
Sawa Child Protection Help Line needs additional trained counsellors who can answer phone calls.
Due to the rapidly increasing need, there is currently an insufficient number of social workers and psychosocial support counsellors at hospitals.
Managers of government schools employed as emergency refuges are yet to receive child protection training. Such training will be provided on 27 July.
Displaced children and their families hosted with relatives remain largely unreached by child protection interventions.
Due to the precarious security environment and ongoing military operations, verification of information, in particular in regards to casualties, is difficult.
Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI)
Gaps & Constraints
The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) continues its daily meetings, focusing primarily on the coordination of the IDP response and challenges related to humanitarian space. Some EOC members also carried out monitoring visits to hospitals and government school shelters.
UNRWA, Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA), Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PCRS) and Internal Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continue the coordination of opening up additional government schools for IDP shelters.
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 latest cluster/sector analysis, it is estimated that US $69 million is now needed for immediate assistance in Gaza, excluding UNRWA’s requirements. Some clusters have also made a latest estimate so far of up to US $220 million that is needed for medium term interventions once the security situation permits. The Humanitarian Country Team has
today begun development of a dedicated Gaza Crisis Appeal which will be finalized by 1 August to address urgent humanitarian needs resulting from the conflict. The appeal once finalized will supersede earlier HCT estimates.
UNRWA has issued its own emergency flash appeal which was revised up to US $115 million this week. The amount requested will help UNRWA respond to the urgent needs of the currently, 159,000 IDPs taking shelter in its facilities, while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 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 per cent of their requested funding.
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. Thus far, two ACF project proposals, (totaling US$ 368,624) to distribute NFI and water storage tanks to 1,475 households in Gaza, are being processed. Three additional proposals were approved today: support for the emergency needs of neonatal units in Gaza hospitals by procurement of essential drugs and disposables submitted by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), the provision of food packages and hygine kits to IDPs hosted in Shelters in Rafah and Khan Unis by Dabn Church Aid; and for the management of ERW to reduce the risk posed to civilians by UNMASt. 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.
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, email@example.com, +972 54 331 1809
For media enquiries, please contact:
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.