This report is produced by OCHA oPt in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 17 July (1500 hrs) to 18 July (1500 hrs). The next report will be issued on 19 July.
On the night of 17 July, the Israeli military launched a ground incursion into the northern and southeastern Gaza Strip, involving infantry troops, backed by tanks, engineering, and intelligence units. According to the Government of Israel, the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels leading into Israel, to prevent the infiltration of Palestinian armed groups and subsequent attacks. This came a few hours after a failed attack by a Palestinian armed cell that reached southern Israel through a tunnel.
The incursion was preceded by a heavy barrage of artillery fire from Israeli troops, combined with intense shelling from gunboats, as well as airstrikes, which continued until 8 am today. The level of fear among the civilian population across Gaza, children in particular, rose dramatically. Tens of thousands, particularly in areas closer to Israel in northern Gaza and middle areas, began fleeing rapidly their homes in the dark, amidst bombardments. Nearly 25,000 reached 43 UNRWA schools habilitated as emergency shelters or temporary safe spaces, bringing the total number of displaced people hosted by UNRWA to 48,000. It is estimated that more than 11,000 additional people have been displaced since the start of the emergency, after their homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and are currently hosted by relatives and neighbors.
Prior to entering Gaza, the Israeli military announced that the "No Go" zone along Gaza's perimeter fence had been expanded from 300 meters to 3 kilometers from the fence. Tens of thousands of people residing within this area in the Rafah and Khan Youths governorates have received Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes.
Initial reports indicate that the ground incursion and related shelling resulted in extensive damage to electricity infrastructure, including up to ten lines from Israel, from which most electricity in the Gaza Strip is purchased. As a result, some 80 per cent of the population is receiving electricity during only four hours a day, down from 12 hours previously. This has further undermined the operation of water and sewage facilities, many of which have been damaged, disrupting or cutting water supply to over half of Gaza's population. Repairs on two of the ten lines were carried out this morning, following prior coordination with the Israeli military.
Since the end of the humanitarian pause yesterday afternoon and until today at 15:00, at least 11 Palestinian children have been killed during Israeli attacks. This brings the death toll among Palestinian children since the start of the emergency to 59, or 22 per cent of all fatalities.
Human rights organizations estimate that since the start of the emergency the Israeli army has targeted and destroyed approximately 300 homes, many of which were the residences of alleged members of armed groups. The targeting of civilian homes is a violation of international humanitarian law, unless the homes are being used for military purposes. Attacks against military objectives must be proportionate, offer a definite military advantage in the prevailing circumstances at the time and precautions must be taken to prevent harm to civilians and civilian property /infrastructure. In case of doubt, buildings ordinarily used for civilian purposes, such as homes, are presumed not to be legitimate military targets.
Since the start of the emergency a total of 268 Palestinians have been killed, of whom, according to preliminary information, at least 72 percent (193 people) are believed to be civilians, 18 per cent (47 people) are members of armed groups, and the status of the remainder (28 people) cannot be determined as of yet. The proportion of civilians among the fatalities, is well above the one recorded during the previous large offensive in the Gaza Strip in November of 2012 ("Operation Pillar of Defense"), when 60 per cent of the fatalities were civilians (99 out of 165). This 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. Since the start of hostilities, one Israeli civilian has been killed and a few others injured by rocket and mortar fire. One Israeli soldier has been also killed during the ground incursion, possibly by friendly fire.
Humanitarian needs and response
Nothing to report.
Gaps & Constraints
UNRWA's Emergency Operations Room (EOR) has switched to 24 hour operations mode, primarily to monitor IDP movement at night. The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) operated by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) convened a meeting in Gaza today with local Heads of Agencies and Cluster Leads to discuss the new situation resulting from ground incursion, including the possibility to open up more shelters (also government shelters), pre-positioning of stocks, the need for a new humanitarian pause, and priority activities to be carried out during such a pause.
On 17 July, the HCT met with donors to discuss preliminary needs and requirements related to the current Gaza emergency. OCHA presented a joint proposal on behalf of the HCT, reflecting the priorities identified by the various clusters and sectors based on preliminary information, in advance of full assessments.
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 $60 million to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including the tens of thousands taking shelter in its facilities. New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to needs in shelter, food, health and psychosocial of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for the oPt has received US$ 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 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
Endnotes'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.