Situation Report on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip No.8

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)


Date: 11 Jan 2009

10 – 11 January 2009

The following information is based on reports from member states, the UN Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory, humanitarian partners and authorities involved in the humanitarian response.1. General Overview

1. As the Israeli military operation in Gaza entered its third week, the ICRC described the situation of Palestinian civilians as, “increasingly precarious”.

2. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), the number of Palestinian casualties has increased to 884 fatalities, including a high number of civilians (at least 93 women, 275 children and 12 medical personnel). At least 3,860 Palestinians have been injured (413 are considered critically injured), including at least 1,333 children and 597 women as of 11 January.

3. The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have been making limited incursions of heavy armour approximately one kilometre deep into Gaza, near densely populated areas. Following media reports in recent days, the Palestinian Red Cross (PRCS) updated on 10 January that it, “is deeply concerned over the use of the Israeli army of certain weapons that [have] not been used before in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)”. Israeli authorities have denied the use of any phosphorous ammunition.

4. On 9 January, Magen David Adom reported that a “barrage” of rockets struck Israel from Palestine in the afternoon. It was noted that the, “rockets are hitting areas where ten percent of Israel’s people live,” and that for the “first time since fighting began in the Gaza Strip 13 days ago, rockets also hit northern Israel.” As at 1500 hrs (1300 hrs GMT) on 11 January, UNSCO reported that 31 rockets had been fired from Palestine into Israel between 10-11 January. On 11 January, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that since 27 December there have been over four Israeli fatalities and over 220 injured.

5. Following “credible assurances that the security of UN personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected”, including undertakings of improved liaison and more effective internal coordination within the Israeli armed forces, UNRWA announced on 10 January that it would lift restrictions on staff movements (which had been announced on 8 January due to lack of security). The truck company responsible for transferring goods from crossing points in Gaza has also resumed work after one staff was killed and two injured by gunfire.

6. On 11 January, the Israeli Prime Minister said that Israel is, “getting close to achieving the goals it set for itself…” Following a meeting between the Palestinian and Egyptian Presidents in Cairo on 10 January, the Palestinian President noted that the Egyptian ceasefire initiative would be an “implementation mechanism for [Security Council] resolution 1860 and the goal remains an immediate ceasefire”.

7. During the week of 12 January, the UN Secretary General will travel to the Middle East region and meet with leaders in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan to discuss the situation in the oPt and to advocate for the expedited implementation of Security Council Resolution 1860, which calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian access in Gaza.

8. On 10 January, the Heads of FAO, WFP and representative of other UN Agencies met with the First Lady of Egypt in her capacity as the President of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society. Participants expressed their grave concerned over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the oPt and, “condemned the grave and systematic human rights violations and the indiscriminate use of force against the Palestinian civilian population…” Participants also called for the prompt and full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1860.

2.1 Coordination and Humanitarian Response

Gaza Crossings

9. Kerem Shalom crossing was open on 11 January, a total of 93.5 truckloads, including 55.5 for humanitarian aid agencies (including food, medical supplies and shelter materials), were allowed entry into Gaza. Palestinian truck-drivers who had threatened to strike after one was killed and two injured by gunfire at Kerem Shalom have resumed operations. New procedures have been established at the crossing as of 11 January, which prevent trucks from crossing into Gaza unless Palestinian trucks are available and ready to load cargo at the Palestinian side of the crossing. On 10 January, crossings were closed for the Jewish Sabbath.

10. Rafah crossing was open on 11 January: 18 medical cases were evacuated and nine trucks with medical and food supplies crossed into Gaza. According to the WHO, since 27 December, 189 patients have been transferred through Rafah crossing as of 10 January.

11. The Nahal Oz fuel pipeline was closed 11 January.

2.1. Protection

12. On 10 January, there was a unilateral suspension of military activity by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) between 1300-1600 hrs (1100-1400 hrs GMT) for the fourth consecutive day. On 11 January, the lull in military activities was held between 1100-1400 hrs (0900- 1200 hrs GMT). This change in time reportedly caused some confusion among civilians and aid agencies. UNRWA was coordinating the movement of a 52-vehcile convoy for the delivery of goods to humanitarian actors on 11 January.

13. Several international NGOs have stated that the daily three-hour lull is insufficient to deliver humanitarian aid and for civilians to access necessary supplies. In particular, continued insecurity is constraining the delivery of lifesaving medical supplies and the distribution of food. Furthermore, the lull has been criticised because it does not coincide with other Israeli security controls. The Israeli army checkpoints on the two main roads running through the Gaza Strip are only open twice daily for half an hour (10-1030 hrs and 1600-1630 hrs), which does not correspond to the planned lull.

14. On 10 January, the ICRC reported that the PRCS had stated that, “rescue operations are often aborted because of the lack of access. They are also becoming more and more dangerous, and [aid workers] are getting more and more scared,” to carry out activities.

2.2. Food

15. UNRWA distributed food through distribution sites and specifically to “hardship” cases on 10 January. Seven of ten food distribution centres were also restocked. WFP also distributed food on 9 and 10 January (including 4,489 tonnes of food parcels; 3,150 kilos of bread; and 1,180 metric tonnes of high-energy biscuits) in collaboration with CHF. On 11 January, WFP launched Operation Lifeline Gaza, a global appeal to increase food distribution to Gaza.

16. WFP has food stocks sufficient to feed almost 360,000 people for the next three weeks, but the heavy fighting has limited the possibility of wide-scale distributions. Many truck drivers and fork lift truck operators have been unwilling to work due to the insecurity and the civilian population is often too frightened to go to food distribution points.

2.3. Health

17. Hospitals remain under intense pressure due to the high number of wounded in need of treatment. The PRCS reported that, “hospital operating rooms are overflowing, and running out of essential medicines. Hospitals and other medical facilities are also understaffed and [unable] to respond to the load of injuries.”

18. According to WHO and the ICRC, the main challenge in the health sector is a lack of freedom of movement: those affected by fighting cannot be accessed by medical staff; distribution of medicines and equipment to hospitals is constrained; there are restrictions on the referral of patients out of Gaza for treatment; and some medical staff cannot access to hospitals.

19. Since the outbreak of hostilities on 27 December, the regular health system has almost ceased to function. The Palestinian MoH reports that about 70 percent of chronic patients regularly attending primary health care centres have had to interrupt their treatment due to the security situation, which raises serious health concerns.

2.4. Water and Sanitation

20. According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), Gaza’s water utility, approximately 500,000 people are without running water and another 500,000 people receive running water only intermittently. Water tanks, pumps and generators for repair of current infrastructure are ready for deployment but have not been accessed due to insecurity, or have not been allowed into Gaza by the Israeli authorities. Fifty UNICEF emergency family water kits (enough for 500 families) were distributed on 9 January through PRCS. On 11 January, UNICEF was also distributing bottled water to 4,000-6,000 people.

21. The CMWU issued a press release on 10 January in which it announced its inability to maintain its water and waste water services due to considerable damage caused to the networks, insecurity preventing the repair of damage and an inability to access needed spare parts. Due to damage of the waste-water treatment and sewage lines, collection ponds are at risk of breaking down, which would likely cause serious humanitarian, health and environmental consequences to people living in the area. On 10 January, UNRWA delivered 25,000 litres of fuel to the CMWU for the operation of water and waste-water facilities. An additional 4,000 litres of fuel were delivered to the Khan Yunis and Rafah municipalities for solid waste collection.

2.5. Shelter and Non-Food Items

22. According to Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the total number of displaced persons within Gaza, including those staying with host families and those in shelters, is estimated to be 80-90,000 people, including an estimated 50,000 children.

23. As of 11 January, UNRWA was operating 31 shelters providing refuge to 25,696 people. Some shelters have become overcrowded, sheltering over 1,700 people; however, insecurity has prevented the opening of new shelters.

2.6. Infrastructure, Fuel and Electricity

24. Following repair to the damaged electrical line west of Netzarim as well as parts of the local network, the Gaza Power Plant resumed partial functionality on 10 January, producing 30MW out of a total capacity of 80MW. Gaza City is now receiving 55MW (12 hours a day); however, because of localized damage, only 30 percent of Gaza City is receiving electricity.


3.0 International Assistance and Priority needs

3.1. Funding

25. The Humanitarian Country Team has re-visited projects proposed for the 2009 CAP (which appealed for over USD 462 million) to ensure that the projects, activities and priorities remained relevant to the ongoing emergency. At this stage, the budget of the CAP has been increased by over USD 67 million for a total appeal of over USD 529 million, and is subject to further changes. This includes the UNRWA Flash appeal for over USD 34 million (for additional food, cash assistance, shelter and fuel); an increase in the capacity of the Humanitarian Emergency Response Fund (HRF) (to quickly fund unpredicted emergency responses), and funding for WFP (for additional food and to cover costs of the newly-established logistics cluster which it is leading).

26. There is an immediate need for USD 95.6 million to respond to the current needs in Gaza. Priority sectors include: protection; shelter; food aid and food security; water and sanitation; agriculture; cash for work/assistance; education; health; and coordination and support services.

27. In total, as of 11 January, donors have already committed or pledged approximately USD 48 million (in funding or in-kind contributions) for projects in the Consolidated Appeal and approximately USD 41 million to projects outside of the appeal ( This information was compiled by OCHA, based on the information provided by donors and appealing organisations.

3.2. Priority Needs

28. Protection: Compliance with international humanitarian law is essential to enhance security for civilians within Gaza, allow civilians freedom of movement to reach lifesaving services, and for humanitarian actors to distribute assistance.

29. Access: A sustained re-opening of all crossings into Gaza is required to meet assistance needs. Improved humanitarian access to Gaza is also required for humanitarian staff, particularly for NGO staff. Increased security and improved access within Gaza is essential for civilians to reach lifesaving services, and for humanitarian actors to distribute assistance.

30. Electricity & Fuel: Much of the population of Gaza continues to live without electricity. Hospitals require fuel to run generators on which they rely; water and sanitation facilities require fuel to operate; and households and bakeries require cooking gas.

31. Wheat grain: Wheat grain is urgently needed for local bakeries and for humanitarian food distributions. The Karni Crossing conveyor belt is the only mechanism which can facilitate the import of the amount of grain required in the Strip at this time, and is currently closed.

32. Cash: Cash has still not entered the Gaza Strip and is urgently needed, including for the Palestinian authority to pay civil servants, for the UNRWA cash distribution program to some 94,000 dependent beneficiaries, as well as its “cash for work” program, salaries for staff and payments to suppliers. The Palestinian Monetary Authority requested approval from Israel for a cash transfer of NIS 243 million (USD 62.9 million) and USD 16 million from Palestinian banks in the West Bank to their branches in Gaza.

33. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet website at A copy of the Field Update from the Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt can be found at:

4.0 Contacts

OCHA Geneva – Humanitarian Affairs Officer
Mr. Peter Neussl, Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 1511, Email:

OCHA New York – Desk Officer
Mr. Aurelien Buffler, Tel: +1 347 515 4801, Email:

OCHA Geneva – Press Contact
Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 2653, Email:

OCHA New York – Press Contact
Ms. Stephanie Bunker, Tel: +1 917 367 2549, Email:

OCHA Office in the occupied Palestinian territory
Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, Tel: +972-2-582-996/ 5853, Email:
Ms. Allegra Pacheco, Tel: +972-2-582-996/ 5853, Email:


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