The Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, codenamed "Protective Edge", entered its third day. Since the start on the night of 7 July 2014, Israeli forces have carried out hundreds of intense aerial and navy bombardment operations throughout the Gaza Strip, targeting military installations, rocket launching sites and the residences of alleged members of armed groups. Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas' military wing, have fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli urban centres, including the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem metropolitan areas. The vast majority of these rockets have fallen in open areas, or have been intercepted by the Iron Dome system. A number of Israelis have suffered light injuries or being treated for shock, with limited damage to property reported.
Since the start of the operation, at least 80 Palestinians, of whom at least 58 are believed to be civilians, including 21 children, have been killed by Israeli bombardment. Approximately 570 others, including 120 children and 160 women, have been injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Heath in Gaza.
Some 70 homes have been targeted and totally destroyed according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). Overall, since the start of the operation, 342 housing units destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes, displacing about 2,000 people. One such attack overnight resulted in the killing of nine Palestinian males, including two children, while they were reportedly watching the World Cup in a beach cafeteria near Khan Younis. Another attack killed eight members of the Al Hai family, including two children, in Khan Younis refugee camp; the intended target is not known in either case. . In most cases, prior to the attacks, residents have been warned to leave the targeted building, either via phone calls by the Israel military or by the firing of warning missiles.
The uninterrupted waves of airstrikes and rocket fire have triggered widespread fear among the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, particularly among children, with dozens having to be treated for shock. Today (10 July), Gaza residents in peripheral areas of the north, centre and south of the territory received warnings via telephone by Israel forces that they should evacuate these areas and move to adjoin urban areas, raising concerns that at a ground offensive and significant displacement may be imminent.
The streets of Gaza are mostly empty and almost all shops are closed. Due to a general strike and the hostilities, most government institutions were also closed, except for medical facilities. The Erez passengers crossing with Israel is open only for foreigners and urgent humanitarian cases, while the Rafah crossing with Egypt opened exceptionally today for the exit of injured Palestinians. The Kerem Shalom commercial crossing is functioning partially, allowing for the entry of only urgent humanitarian supplies and fuel. The Gaza Power Plant continues to function at half of its capacity, while electricity outages of 12 hours per day continue. Access to the sea is prohibited and all fishing activity has stopped: 3,000 fishermen are currently unable to continue their livelihoods. Farming areas have been targeted and destruction of agricultural livelihood has been reported.
Humanitarian needs and response
Following the declaration of an emergency by UNRWA and the Humanitarian Coordinator an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been set-up at the UNDP Compound in Gaza, and is managed by OCHA. In parallel, an UNRWA operations room has been established at the UNRWA Field Office in Gaza. The EOC's primary role is to centralize information management and coordinate operational responses among HCT members and clusters, as well as with UNRWA, ICRC, and local emergency bodies. Under the EOC, an OCHA-led Humanitarian Information Cell (HIC) has been set-up in Jerusalem responsible for reporting, communication and humanitarian advocacy. A sub-group of the EOC in Gaza led by OHCHR has been designated to monitor casualties.
HCT representatives met on 9 July with the Israeli Ministry of Defense (COGAT) in Tel Aviv and discussed ways to facilitate humanitarian operations in Gaza, including access of humanitarian goods and staff. An Israeli Operations Room is in operation at the Erez crossing as of 9:00 AM on 10 July, with the presence of an HCT representative.
Local emergency coordination mechanisms of the Palestinian Civil Defence (PCD) and the Palestinian Red Crescent have been put in place to provide first response. The High Council for PCD also declared a state of emergency and has set up an emergency operations room to coordinate operations with other governmental institutions. There is coordination at the field level between PCD and PRCS for ambulances and search and rescue operations.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received $164 million (42 per cent) out of a total request of $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. Projects targeting Gaza and the West Bank jointly are fully funded, however, such projects only represent $68 2 million of the SRP total request. Funding across clusters has been uneven however, no clusters are on track with funding at the midyear 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 $4 million, $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 duringthe 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 $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 ($1 million). 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.
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 on 11 June, when Israeli forces targeted and killed an alleged member of an armed group, along with a child accompanying him, and Palestinian factions responded by shooting rockets at southern Israel. Tensions further increased following the abduction of three Israeli youths in the southern West Bank, on 12 June, which the Israeli government attributed to Hamas. Overall, in the period leading 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 firing.
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 longstanding access restrictions imposed by Israel. 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 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 more information, please visit www.ochaopt.org