Note: There will be no situation reports on 23 or 24 August. The next report will be issued on 25 August.
Hostilities have continued during the reporting period resulting in additional Palestinian casualties. Little movement or economic activity is reported because of the pervasive insecurity, and while core and emergency operations continue, staff movement has been put on hold or reduced to a minimum. UNRWA reports that many staff in its health centers, which serve both the refugee and non-refugee population, could not reach their workplaces, and that four of its 12 distribution centers closed yesterday, impacting the ongoing UNRWA/WFP exceptional food distribution.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to rise, with at least 460,000 persons — more than a quarter of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza — now displaced. Some 83 out of UNRWA's 156 school buildings are currently serving
as emergency shelters and, for safety reasons, all are located west of the former Israeli imposed "buffer zone", encompassing some 44 per cent of the Gaza Strip. However, since the resumption of hostilities on 19 August, airstrikes have been increasingly directed towards targets in the west of the Gaza Strip, increasing the risk to those displaced sheltering in UNRWA schools. If airstrikes to the west of the former buffer zone continue, UNRWA will have to consider opening emergency shelters in installations which have been cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the former buffer zone and may have to potentially relocate some of the displaced. UNRWA and government schools will not be ready for the new school year which was scheduled to start this coming Sunday.
Hostilities and casualties
Since the last situation update, at least 12 persons, many of whose status still needs to be verified, have reportedly been killed, including one two-month-old baby who reportedly died from the consequences of gas inhalation in Rafah on 23 July. This brings the cumulative death toll among Palestinians since 7 July to at least 2,042, according to preliminary data collected by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 359 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established. Of the initially verified cases, 1,444 are believed to be civilians, including 478 children and 246 women, and 239 members of armed groups. 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, were injured.
During the reporting period, at least 16 houses were totally destroyed in Israeli air strikes. In the majority of cases the targeted houses had already been evacuated, but surrounding houses were also severely damaged or destroyed. Since the launch of the Israeli military operation, over a thousand homes have reportedly been directly targeted by Israeli airstrikes, and it is estimated that at least 17,200 housing units have been totally destroyed or severely damaged during Israeli air strikes and shelling from 7 July to 20 August. Human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns regarding 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 cases raise concerns about the targeting of civilians, in violation of the principle of distinction.
Of particular concern is the alarming number of incidents since the onset of the emergency in which multiple members of the same family have been killed. As of 20 August, at least 140 families have lost three or more family members in the same incident, for a total of 735 civilian fatalities.
Among the most serious incidents recorded during the reporting period:
As of yesterday afternoon, there were 279,389 IDPs hosted in 83 designated UNRWA schools, up from 261,341 the previous day. Another 34,602 IDPs were hosted in seven government shelters supported by UNRWA, up from 29,030 the previous day. There is no update available on the 10,241 IDPS in 11 government schools managed by MoSA . 137,411 IDPs residing with host families have been registered and reached by various partners. In addition, an estimated several thousand IDPs are taking shelter in public buildings and informal shelters. However, it is anticipated that with the resumption of hostilities, these numbers are also rising and that there may be a need to open additional shelters in government schools, particularly in Gaza city.
Given the length of hostilities and the large numbers of IDPs overcrowding, adequate protection and hygiene are growing concerns. UNRWA has completed an assessment of all sources of non-potable water to the shelters. All networks and wells providing water to the schools have been repaired, and all designated emergency shelters are connected either to a municipality network, to a water well, or to both. However, these sources do not provide sufficient amounts of water for the displaced. In the Rafah and Gaza governorates, the municipality network provides water to the shelters every two days for two hours at a time. In the Khan Yunis governorate water is supplied every three days for 1.5 hours. In the North and Middle Area, shelters receive municipality water on a daily basis.
However, even if they have access to adequate quantities of water, IDPs in host families and shelters may continue to face difficulties with proper hygiene. It is reported that women are frequently very uncomfortable and embarrassed with the lack of privacy. In addition to showers installed in the Arabic toilets in all its emergency shelters, UNRWA has started to put into practice more permanent solutions to improve hygiene. In Khan Yunis, two bathing areas have been established in each shelter where women and children can use bucket showers. An additional eight will be established for men. Currently, UNRWA is planning to start building external showers starting with the 16 designated emergency shelters that were identified to continue as long-term shelters for displaced who have no home to return to.
UNRWA Gaza Situation Report, 21 August 2014.
Update on Services
Although the Gaza Strip must imports most of what is consumed, locally- produced food represents an important source of nutritious and affordable food, with some 28,600 households relying on farming (19,000 households), livestock raising (6,000) and fishing (3,600) for their livelihoods.The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimate that the recent hostilities have forced farmers and herders to abandon their lands, and resulted in substantial direct damage to Gaza's 17,000 hectares of croplands as well as much of its agricultural infrastructure, including greenhouses, irrigation systems, animal farms, fodder stocks and fishing boats. The poultry sector has been particularly affected, with half of Gaza's poultry (broilers and layers) killed as a result of direct damage or because of restrictions on tending and feeding them. Lack of electricity is affecting the storage capacity of fresh food for shops and households. Access restrictions to the sea, which were partially lifted on 17 August to three nautical miles (NM) from the Gaza shore, were reinstated again yesterday, with all fishing again prohibited.
The crisis has worsened an already extremely fragile environment in terms of food security and livelihoods. Around 66 per cent of the population of Gaza was receiving food assistance prior to this crisis and the household food insecurity level or vulnerable to food insecure stood at 72 per cent of households. An exceptional one-off food distribution by UNRWA, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA), targeting families who do not regularly receive food assistance, is continuing with 415, 000 out of a targeted 730,000 people now reached. This complements the standard food assistance to 1,150,000 people provided by UNRWA and WFP in collaboration with their partners.
During the ceasefire, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility CMWU was able to conduct temporary repairs to water and sanitation networks. The repairs concentrated on densely populated areas and reached an approximate coverage of eighty per cent for emergency access to water supply. An average 60 — 70 per cent of the network supplying Gaza city is now reported to be functioning.
However, preliminary fmdings from some communities interviewed during the joint rapid needs assessment revealed that water services, which are being delivered by municipalities are not always reaching the affected communities despite the best efforts. This is most likely due to hidden damages and frequent power cuts interrupting network pressure. For instance, in the Ash Shuja'iyeh neighborhood, one carrier line that was not classified as damaged was found filled with mud and debris. Although water was being pumped into the system, households along the street were not receiving any water. The eastern part of the area is receiving one to two hours of water every other day, while the western part is receiving two to three hours every other day. In areas with a severe level of destruction, sections of pipelines have been closed in order to secure a minimum pressure in the network. However, with the restarting of hostilities, repairs and assessments have again stalled.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Briefing to the Security Council, 18 August 2014
Key humanitarian priorities:
Protection of civilians: an immediate ceasefire is needed to protect civilians. While hostilities persist, all sides must respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack.
Humanitarian space: access for humanitarian workers to carry out life-saving activities should be ensured, among other reasons, to complete search and rescue operations in several areas, and repair critical water and electricity infrastructure. Removal of the threat of numerous UXO in built up areas is vital.
Joint needs assessments: the first phase initial rapid needs assessment, covering the governorate level, was launched on 13 August to inform responses by humanitarian organizations. The second phase, covering the municipal level, took place on 18 and 19 August. Information collected is being analysed to determine the overall level of humanitarian needs.
Additional fuel supply: fuel is needed to operate backup generators at essential facilities, including water, sanitation and health, for longer hours.
Strengthen response to IDPs: improving priority response to IDPs across facilities and with host families; ensuring common standards of response to IDPs throughout the Gaza Strip, including comprehensive and common registration.
Updates to this section will be provided on Monday, 25 August.
The first phase of the joint rapid needs assessment, led by the EOC started on 13 August, and data analysis in 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 as the situation allows. 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.
Based on available information, funding to the Gaza Crisis Appeal stands at US $176 million out of a total request of US $367 million (48%), however, of this around US $148 million is for UNRWA, US $20 million for WFP and only US $8 million for others, 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, thirteen 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, and the request is under processing by CERF.
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.
2UNRWA has revised its damaged schools estimate from 90 to 75 buildings. The change was in part due to many schools operating in double shifts under different names.