Situation Report on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip No.7

1. General Overview

1. The Israeli military operation in Gaza entered its 14th day. With continued clashes, there was an increased number of civilian casualties reported as well as restrictions to humanitarian access. As of 9 January, there were also over 21,000 internally displaced persons within Gaza.

2. As of 1700 hrs (1500 hrs GMT) the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported that the total number of Palestinian fatalities was 800 and 3,300 injured, including a high number of civilians, since the beginning of the Israeli operation on 27 December. Since the beginning of the Israeli ground operation on 3 January, the number of fatalities of children in Gaza increased by 250%, as at 8 January.

Number of Palestinian children killed in Gaza
1-8 Jan 2009 (MoH figures)

3. Three Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldier fatalities on 8 January brought the total number of Israeli fatalities to ten soldiers and four civilians since 27 December. On 9 January, militants continued to fire rockets and mortar shells into Israel. As of 1430 hrs (1230 hrs GMT), twenty rockets had been fired from Gaza, hitting major Israeli cities. Thirty rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on 8 January.

4. For the third day, the Israelis implemented a unilateral cessation of military activities. The logistics cluster reported that the cessation of military activities was planned for 1200-1500 hrs (1000-1300 hrs GMT), one hour earlier than on the two previous days. Some humanitarian agencies expressed concern that the late announcement of the change in time could affect planning and coordination for the delivery of assistance.

5. During the night of 8 January, the Security Council (SC) adopted Resolution 1860 which called for: an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza; the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment; and called upon Member States to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reopening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel (see Resolution attached). Fourteen of the Security Council’s 15 members voted in favour of the Resolution, with the United States abstaining.

6. In response to the Resolution, Israeli Prime Minsiter Olmertt’s office issued a statement on 9 January saying that the, “military will continue acting to protect Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions it was given.” The cease-fire was similarly rejected by Hamas, whose leader Ayman Taha said Hamas was, “not consulted about this resolution and [the development of the resolution has] not taken into account our vision and the interests of our people.”

7. The Israeli Government was to meet on 9 January to decide how to proceed on an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire, as well as how to respond to the passing of the Security Council Resolution 1860.

8. On 8 January, the Human Rights Council held a special session on Gaza, at which strong statements were made by most member states, deploring the grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. A possible Human Rights Council Resolution is under consideration. On 9 January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the immediate implementation of a ceasefire and suggested that the Security Council consider authorizing a mission to investigate violations committed by both sides in the conflict in order to establish the relevant facts and ensure accountability.

9. As a result of the insecurity faced by its staff, UNRWA had instituted a temporary suspension of movements of staff throughout the Gaza Strip on 8 January. On 9 January, in a high level meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, the UN was informed that the incidents which led to the temporary suspension of UN staff movements are deeply regretted and do not reflect official Israeli Government policy. The UN received credible assurances that the security of UN personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected, and that there would be undertakings of improved liaison and more effective internal coordination within the IDF. On this basis, UN staff movements will resume as soon as possible while the UN will keep the safety and security of its staff under constant review.

10. Following an incident during which an ICRC-escorted convoy was hit on 8 January, the ICRC stated on 9 January that it, “will not be conducting relief convoys outside Gaza City,” though it “is maintaining most of its humanitarian activities in Gaza…such as the work of the ICRC surgical team at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.” The ICRC also stated that it was, “trying to clarify the circumstances under which one of its convoys came under fire on 8 January.”

11. The Joint Humanitarian Coordination Centre for the Israel Foreign Ministry and the Office of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which opened on 6 January, now includes representatives of humanitarian agencies and donors, including UN OCHA, WFP, UNRWA, ICRC, the EC and USAID. The presence of the representatives is intended to facilitate coordination of humanitarian operations between Israeli authorities and the humanitarian community.

2.1 Coordination and Humanitarian Response

Gaza Crossings

12. The Kerem Shalom crossing was open on 9 January. According to the Logistics Cluster, forty-one commercial truckloads were allowed entry into Gaza on 9 January through the crossing, including medical supplies, food and electrical parts for the power plant. However, no UN humanitarian supplies entered Gaza on 9 January. On 8 January, a total of 89 truckloads, including 40 for aid agencies, were allowed entry to Gaza through Kerem Shalom. COGAT reported that this included 2,227 tons of food, medical supplies and medication.

13. At Rafah crossing, on 9 January, 14 truckloads of medical supplies were allowed entry, as well as 11 medics and three ambulances. One medical case was evacuated.

14. The Nahal Oz fuel pipeline, Erez and Karni crossings remained closed on 9 January. COGAT reported that on 8 January, 315,000 litres of industrial fuel for the Gaza power station and 143 tons of gas for domestic uses was piped to Palestine through the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline. On 8 January, 232 dual-national Palestinians left Gaza via the Erez crossing.

2.1. Protection

15. The safety of civilians remains a serious concern in Gaza. In particular, medical staff’s access to evacuate those affected by shelling has been constrained. An unknown number of dead, injured and trapped people remain in houses which have been shelled and in areas where hostilities are ongoing. As ambulances have been hit in the past, insecurity is preventing medical staff from reaching these places.

16. Due to the restricted access of ambulances, on 8 January, the ICRC called for, “ambulances in Gaza [to] be given systematic round-the-clock access to the wounded everywhere in the territory so they can save as many lives as possible.” The ICRC also noted that emergency personnel must be granted safe, unlimited passage to treat and evacuate the wounded.

2.2. Food

17. The World Food Programme reported that food distributions continued on 9 January. However, due to restricted access related to insecurity, since 27 December, WFP has reached only approximately 60,000 beneficiaries, which represents less than a quarter of their regular caseload.

18. Food shortages continued across Gaza and Karni Crossing Point remained closed, which is the only mechanisms that can facilitate the import of the amount of grain required for bakeries and food distributions.

2.3. Health

19. The security situation continued to prevent medical staff from reaching hospitals and clinics on 9 January. As the crisis approached the two-week benchmark, in addition to concerns about the capacity to treat emergency cases with overstretched emergency rooms and medical staff, there are concerns that chronically ill patients who depend on regular treatment at hospitals within and outside of Gaza will be affected by a lack of access to treatment. Only urgent surgery is being carried out in hospitals and all out-patient clinics are closed, except for those dealing with urgent cases.

20. WHO reported that 34 out of 56 primary health care centres were open on 9 January, however due to access constraints, there was a ninety percent reduction in visits.


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Filed under Bencana Manusia, Gaza, Palestine

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