The Israeli ground incursion into Gaza continues accompanied by intensive airstrikes, artillery fire and shelling. This has led to a sharp increase in Palestinian casualties; since the last situation report, at least 69 persons, including at least 18 children and 3 women, have been reported killed, the highest number of fatalities in a 24-hour period since the current emergency began on 7 July.
The Palestinian fatality toll from Israeli air, naval and ground strikes in Gaza is at least 336 Palestinians, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including at least 228 civilians (68 per cent of total fatalities), including 77 children and 56 women, 53 members of armed groups and 55 persons whose status cannot yet be determined. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 2,268 Palestinians, including 657 children and 463 women, had been injured as at 06:00 on 19 July. The proportion of civilians among the fatalities is above that recorded during the most recent large offensive in the Gaza Strip in November 2012 ("Operation Pillar of Defense"), when 60 per cent of the fatalities were civilians (99 out of 165).
Since 7 July, hundreds of homes have reportedly been directly targeted by Israeli airstrikes, causing a large number of civilian casualties. Human rights organizations have reported on multiple occasions about incidents where civilians or civilian objects have been directly hit by Israeli airstrikes, in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the close vicinity. Such reports, along with the high proportion of civilian casualties, continue to raise concerns about respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack under international humanitarian law.
Thousands of Palestinians continue to flee their homes. Displacement is expected to continue rising posing an increasing challenge for national and international humanitarian organizations to deliver protection and assistance. On19 July, it is reported that the IDF warned residents of areas in the central Gaza Strip, including al-Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps, to evacuate the area to Deir el Balah; over 165,000 people live in this area. There are concerns regarding the safety of people fleeing, as there have been reports of people being injured or killed while trying to flee.
The number of displaced Palestinians seeking shelter in UNRWA schools in Gaza has escalated sharply in the past 48 hours and now exceeds 50,000 in 44 schools, straining the Agency's capacity to cope. This figure equals the peak number of people seeking shelter in Agency facilities during "Operation Cast lead" the 2008/2009 conflict. This is in addition to the more than 11,000 people who have been displaced , after their homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and are currently hosted by relatives and neighbours.
The ground incursion and related shelling has resulted in extensive damage to electricity infrastructure, with some 80 per cent of the population receiving electricity during only four hours a day, down from 12 hours previously. Shelling and airstrikes have also caused an increase in damage to wells, sewage pumping stations and water and sewage lines. Water supply for an estimated half of the population of Gaza (900,000 people) has been cut or severely disrupted. The demand and pressure on the private sector water tankering system is increasing and prices are soaring.
Indiscriminate firing by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into Israel also continued during the past 24 hours, albeit with a lower frequency than previous days, with most falling in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome system. The second Israeli civilian killed since the start of hostilities was reported in a Bedouin community in southern Israel today, with four members of his family injured. On 19 July, it was also reported that two Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian combatants who had crossed into Israel; in total, it is reported that at least three Israeli soldiers have been killed and 21 soldiers injured during the military operation, according to Israeli media sources.
Humanitarian needs and response
UNRWA's Emergency Operations Room (EOR) has switched to 24 hour operations mode, primarily to monitor IDP movement at night. Today, there was a meeting of the EOC Secretariat in Ramallah under the Ministry of Social Affairs, with HCT members in attendance. The EOC in Ramallah is set up to support the relief operation in Gaza, connecting with the EOC in Gaza and improving information management and coordination.
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 initial cluster / sector analysis it is estimated that US $ 40 million is needed for immediate assistance in Gaza, excluding UNRWA's requirements. A number of clusters have also made a preliminary estimate of a further US $87 million that is needed for medium term interventions once the security situation permits. All estimates are based on initial information; revisions, as new assessments come in, will be communicated to donors.
UNRWA has issued an emergency flash appeal worth $60 million to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the tens of thousands taking shelter in its facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to needs in shelter, food, health and psychosocial of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 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% of their requested funding. The HCT is currently undertaking an exercise to identify the most urgent SRP projects that if funded would help support the response in Gaza, as well as any new needs.
The Emergency Response Fund (ERF) is an additional mechanism available to fund interventions in Gaza through rapid and flexible support to affected civilian populations. Currently, the ERF is processing one project application in regards to the Gaza emergency. 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
'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.
2 Data on injuries is provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.