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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
2 February 2009



Between December 27 and January 18, Israeli forces conducted a major combined military operation in the Gaza Strip. The operation lasted for 23 days and comprised bombardment by land, sea and air and incursions into Gaza by Israeli troops. Before and during that period, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups fired rockets from Gaza into Israel, and engaged Israeli troops in Gaza during the ground invasion.

The conflict resulted in extensive casualties and destruction of homes, livelihoods and infrastructure. It significantly debilitated basic services, further compounding an already serious humanitarian situation resulting in large part from the 18 months of sustained closure of Gaza to all but the most essential commodities. With fighting taking place in densely populated areas, and with hospitals, ambulances and UN facilities being hit by shells, there was almost no safe space in the Gaza Strip. As the borders were also sealed, civilians had no place to flee, and bore the brunt of the fighting. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health figures, 1,326 Palestinians were killed during this period, including an estimated 430 children and 110 women. 5,450 Palestinians were injured, including 1,855 children and 795 women. With every other person in Gaza a child – 56% of the population is under 18 – children were dangerously exposed to the fighting around them. In Israel, 3 civilians were killed and 182 injured, as a reported 1,200 rockets fell on Israeli civilian areas. Homes and public infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip, including UN facilities, sustained extensive damage, with Gaza City the worst hit. An estimated 21,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in the fighting.1 At the height of the fighting, nearly 51,000 people were displaced in shelters, and a larger number of people were believed to be living with host families.

A unilateral Israeli ceasefire on January 18, followed a day later by a unilateral ceasefire by Hamas and other Palestinian factions, put at least a temporary end to the fighting, pending the conclusion of broader arrangements to sustain a ceasefire as envisaged in Security Council resolution 1860. The Israeli army completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip on January 21. The coastal road has reopened and movement is possible between the northern and southern parts of the territory. Basic humanitarian assistance is entering Gaza, but is constrained by Israeli restrictions on the amount and type of aid and by logistical difficulties. The ceasefire is, for the most part, holding although serious incidents have been reported.

The 18-month closure had already left most of the population of 1.4 million unable to exercise many of their most basic rights and severely reduced their access to services, amidst collapsing infrastructure and acute shortages of power, water, shelter, food and medical services. Prior to 27 December 2008, 80% of the population was already receiving aid of some kind (although not all on a regular basis). This proportion is expected to increase further once more comprehensive information on the impact of this latest fighting is available. The food sector is projecting that the food-insecure proportion of the population will rise from 56% to over 76% as a result of the latest crisis. Initial assessments by humanitarian agencies have confirmed that supplies of fuel, the provision of medical, water and sanitation services, electricity, and shelter also remain critical.

In their visits to the region, both the UN Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) stressed two key points as necessary conditions for a successful humanitarian response. The first is that it is critical to ease the crossings regime for relief items, equipment and construction material, and spare parts, and for the free and sustained movement of humanitarian personnel to implement this planned response. The second condition is that the operation not become entangled in the political disputes around Gaza. As stated by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, it is important that humanitarian agencies be able to “work effectively with the Israeli authorities, cooperate closely with the Palestinian Authority, and deal practically [as before and at a technical level] with those in control on the ground without any of the parties trying to exert political control over humanitarian operations.” The United Nations is committed, through this impartial and neutral approach, to provide humanitarian assistance and ensure access.

Needs in Gaza are extensive, and require the combined, coordinated response of international and national humanitarian agencies. In this context, this Flash Appeal builds upon, and supersedes, the Initial Response Plan and Immediate Funding Needs document of January 15, which requested $117 Million for urgent humanitarian action. It includes those portions of the Initial Response Plan which are still relevant, and can be carried forward, as well as new and revised projects, all of which will be incorporated in a revised 2009 Consolidated Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory. As with the Initial Response Plan, agencies have been encouraged to adapt and revise project proposals that were already in the 2009 Consolidated Appeal as much as possible.

This Flash Appeal seeks $613 million2 to cover the identified and estimated needs of a projected caseload of 1.4 million persons for a nine-month period. ($82 million in funding to date for the Initial Response Plan can be counted toward this target, leaving unmet needs of $531 million.) The nine-month planning horizon has been selected to allow projects for immediate life-saving needs and initial and essential repairs of key infrastructure to cover the period until recovery and reconstruction activities can be implemented. Although there is now relative calm in Gaza, without political progress the humanitarian situation is likely to remain critical and volatile. As new needs become apparent, the Appeal will be revised as required. The appeal includes 106 NGO projects and 82 UN projects, including 11 projects of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The year-long emergency programming for Gaza and the West Bank in the 2009 Consolidated Appeal, now totalling $259 million (excluding the current Flash Appeal), will also have to be funded without undue delay. The projects highlighted here are to be considered part of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) CAP 2009 and should in no way prejudice funding for other annual humanitarian programming, including for the West Bank, as presented in the 2009 Consolidated Appeal.

1 According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
2 All dollar signs in this document denote United States dollars.

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