As the Gaza emergency enters its sixth day, the civilian population of the Gaza Strip continues to make up the majority of casualties. According to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster, since 7 July, at least 168 Palestinians, including 133 civilians (80 per cent of total fatalities), 26 members of armed groups and nine persons whose status could not be verified have been killed by Israeli air, naval and ground strikes in Gaza. An estimated 36 children and 26 women are among the fatalities.2 According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 1,140 Palestinians including 296 children and 233 women have also been injured. These figures, along with reports about the circumstances of some incidents, where civilians or civilian objects have been directly hit by Israeli fire (see below for incidents during the period), while there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the close vicinity, have raised concerns about the respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack under international humanitarian law.
Indiscriminate rocket firing by armed groups in Gaza at Israeli localities continued with Israeli media reporting that approximately 1,500 rockets have been fired at Israel since the beginning of the emergencys. A barrage of rockets targeted the Tel Aviv metropolitan area on Saturday evening but all were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. A rocket which struck Ashkelon on Sunday afternoon reportedly wounded two Israelis. Overnight, Israeli forces also briefly entered Gaza from the sea, reportedly to attack a rocket launching site, in the first recorded ground incident occurring on land.
The targeting of Palestinian residential properties, some of which are the homes of alleged members of armed groups, continued. The number of homes destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli attacks since the start of the emergency has reached 940, bringing the estimated number of people displaced in these incidents to 5,600.
Injury to utility workers is also of increasing concern. An employee of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah and sustained serious injury today; two CMWU workers and a child were reportedly killed in similar circumstances on 11 July. Consequently, the CMWU has announced that they have suspended routine operations due to increased security risks and the alleged targeting of their technicians. Only critical facilities, particularly wells, easily accessible by technicians will be operated. As a result, over 1/3 of the population of Gaza may not have access to potable water. While damaged electricity lines resulting in major power outages have reportedly been repaired, electricity in the northern Gaza Strip is still interrupted as a result of additional lines being struck in recent days. According to the Ministry of Health, to date, eight health facilities and four ambulances have been damaged. One medical doctor has died and 19 health personnel have been injured due to airstrikes.
Leaflets were dropped on northern Gaza by the Israeli air force warning residents to evacuate by noon Sunday, ahead of anticipated attacks on rocket launchers in the area. Approximately 16,000 people are now taking shelter in UNRWA schools in the northern Gaza area.
The Erez passenger crossing remained closed today, except for the evacuation of Gazans holding dual nationality, some 530 of whom left Gaza today, along with a number of medical cases. The Kerem Shalom commercial crossing also remained closed and the Rafah border crossing with Egypt was open for the evacuation of a limited number of wounded Palestinians.
Humanitarian needs and response
Lack of adequate protection of health facilities and personnel: two hospitals, three clinics, one treatment centre for the disabled, and four ambulances have sustained damage, while one doctor has been killed and 19 medical staff have been injured since the start of the emergency.
The UN Access Coordination Unit (ACU) have been working closely with the local authorities in Gaza and the Israeli authorities at the Erez Crossing to coordinate the evacuation of foreign nationals and the access of water and telecommunications teams to the ARA along the fence for repairs. ACU staff have been deployed at Erez and additional staff to be deployed in Gaza to support upcoming humanitarian operations.
A number of donors have already started working with clusters and partners to look into providing funding for urgent needs in the most critical sectors. The Government of Norway noted the particular needs in shelter and health and has announced an extra contribution of NOK 30 million to respond to humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. Norway has urged other donors to come forward.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 165 million (42 per cent) out of a total request of US$390 million Nearly 90 per cent of 1.9 million vulnerable people targeted in the SRP are in Gaza. Less that 30 per cent of the funds requested for projects targeting Gaza specifically have been mobilized. US$ 68 2 million is requested for projects targeting Gaza and the West Bank jointly. Funding across clusters has been uneven; however, no clusters are on track with funding at the mid-year point with the exception of Coordination. Food Security interventions, which represent the bulk of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, are only 30 per cent funded.
The Emergency Response Fund (ERF) is an additional mechanism available to fund interventions in Gaza. While the ERF balance currently stands at US $4 million, US $2 million worth of proposals are already being processed to meet previous underfunded, critical SRP projects which are also covering critical sectors that support responses during the emergency. The ERF is therefore in urgent need of replenishment to ensure the fund's ability to provide rapid and flexible support to affected civilian populations.
Although operations for UNRWA continue in all areas, there is an urgent need for funding to cover the US $22 million of UNRWA's Emergency Appeal shortfall, already projected by the Agency. Currently, the most urgent funding needs include funding to continue the food assistance programme and additional resources to procure additional non-food items (US $1 million).
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, email@example.com, +972 59 291 1047
Yehezkel Lein, Head of Analysis, Communications and Protection Unit, OCHA oPt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +972 54 331 1809
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.
2 Data on injuries is provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
2 Data 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.