As the Gaza emergency enters its tenth day, a UN-initiated humanitarian pause took place from 10:00 to 15:00 today. The temporary pause held despite limited fire from Gaza at southern Israel and Israeli shells in response during the designated period.
Today's humanitarian pause, the first negotiated break in hostilities since the emergency began on 7 July, allowed Gaza residents to leave their homes and shelters and stock up on basic food items and other necessities. Streets were quickly filled with people and vehicles and shops and markets opened. Banks and ATMs were operational but unable to cope with demand, leading to arguments and altercations in some branches. Patients were also to visit health centres for the first time for regular non-emergency appointments. Food security members were able to assess damage to agricultural land for the first time since the start of the operation. Farmers were also able to harvest some crops and bring them to the markets, where fresh fruit and vegetables were in short supply.
The pause allowed for the removal of accumulated garbage and the initial clearing away of rubble, and for utility workers to carry out maintenance repairs. Staff with the main water utility in Gaza (CMWU) and the electricity provider (GEDCO) deployed several teams simultaneously, to carry out repairs of damaged infrastructure. However, due to the lack of progress on the repairs on two electricity feeder lines on the Israeli side, power outages continued in some areas.
The pause also allowed humanitarian workers to conduct field visits in safety and to begin the first detailed assessment of damage and needs since the emergency began, as reflected in the cluster updates below.
Prior to the five hour pause, hostilities continued over night, with intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza by air, land and sea, resulting in another 23 Palestinians killed in the reporting period. In one widely reported incident, a group of seven children from the Bakr family were struck by a missile strike while playing football on a beach in Gaza city. Four boys aged 10 to 11 were killed and an eight-year-old boy seriously injured. The Israeli military has announced an investigation into the incident.
The Palestinian fatality toll since the start of the emergency is now 230.According to preliminary information, at least 74 percent (171 people) are civilians, including 48 children and 31 women, 17 per cent (39 people) are members of armed groups, and the status of the remainder (20 people) cannot be determined as yet.3 According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 1,764 Palestinians, including 521 children and 372 women, had been injured as of midday on 17 July. The large proportion of civilians among the fatalities continues to raise concerns about respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack under international humanitarian law.
Indiscriminate firing by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza into Israel also continued during the past 24 hours with most falling in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome system. Rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups has so far resulted in one Israeli civilian fatality and at least 11, and possibly up to 26, civilians directly injured by rockets or shrapnel, based on various Israeli media reports.. Today, UNRWA announced the discovery, on 16 July, of approximately 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in the course of a regular inspection of its premises. UNRWA has strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations as a "flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law."
Humanitarian needs and response
On 17 July, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) met with donors to discuss preliminary needs and requirements related to the current Gaza emergency. OCHA prepared a joint proposal on behalf of the HCT that reflects the priorities identified by the various clusters and sectors based on preliminary information, in advance of full assessments. The initial request amounts to $US 40 million for immediate needs.
HCT members attended a coordination meeting led by the Minister of Social Affair and Agriculture at the Emergency Operation Centre.
Emergency Operation Centre members in Gaza developed a list of priority activities to be carried out during the humanitarian pause. These activities were implemented today. During the pause, the EOC members were able for the first time to conduct more in-depth assessments and monitoring activities.
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 and using existing projects in the Strategic Response Plan, 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 $87 million that is needed for medium term interventions once the security situation permits. All estimates are based on initial information; revisions as new assessment comes in will be communicated to donors. UNRWA is due to issue an emergency flash appeal to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the thousands taking shelter in its facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psychosocial needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 168 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 just over 30% of their requested funding. The HCT is currently embarking on 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 to develop an initial cost estimate for the response.
The Emergency Response Fund (ERF), an additional mechanism available to fund interventions in Gaza, is in urgent need of replenishment to ensure the fund's ability to provide rapid and flexible support to affected civilian populations. The mobilization of resources through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is another channel that may be used to meet needs. Currently, the ERF is processing one project application in regards to the Gaza emergency.
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.
2Data on injuries is provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
3Data 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.