Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 10 September 2014
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
A new United Nations assessment published this week lays out the massive scope of the needs facing the nearly 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza following the “unprecedented” destruction wreaked by 51 days of Israeli bombing in July and August.
Israel’s assault – which it dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” – left at least 2,133 Palestinians dead and more than eleven thousand injured. More than 100,000 are permanently homeless as some 13 percent of Gaza’s housing stock – 44,300 housing units – was affected by the attack, with five percent rendered completely uninhabitable.
The UN report “Gaza Initial Rapid Assessment,” published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), was conducted through August with the assistance of dozens of Palestinian and international aid agencies, organizations and experts.
It indicates that almost everyone in every part of Gaza faces some urgent need for basic protection, healthcare and rehabilitation, housing, water, food security or education.
The report came out the same day that the UN and the Palestinian Authority launched a $551 million emergency appeal to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza.
The assessment also identifies the need for “legal support to address some of these protection needs, including pursuing accountability for alleged violations of international law resulting in deaths and injuries, as well as destruction of property as a result of the military operation.”
The siege is still the issue
These findings underscore the urgency of the call made by Palestinians in Gaza and human rights and humanitarian groups insistently: reconstruction, recovery and a normal, dignified life are impossible unless the siege is lifted.
There is a strong consensus in the international humanitarian aid industry that the siege must go.
“Only a full opening of all crossings to people and goods, including exports will enable Palestinian civilians in Gaza to restore their economy and escape the poverty the blockade has entrenched,” Oxfam has said. “The international community must press Israel for the blockade to be fully lifted, rather than only eased.”
And the International Committee of the Red Cross has long viewed the siege of Gaza as illegal collective punishment.
But since the 26 August ceasefire, uncertainty and mystery continue to shroud the understandings regarding the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza reached by Israel and Palestinian resistance organizations.
Although the ceasefire understandings were not made public, media reported that they “include opening all crossings to Gaza, allowing reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, allowing the entry of materials needed for reconstruction and permitting fishing for a distance of six to twelve nautical miles from shore.”
The parties to the deal also agreed to return to Cairo within a month to resume negotiations on a long-term truce. Those discussions have yet to begin, but a Hamas official said they would start in mid-September.
Little change at the crossings
What we do know is that the Rafah crossing for people between Egypt and Gaza continues to operate at very reduced capacity, and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza remains the only goods crossing open.
Palestinian sources have told Gisha, an Israeli nonprofit organization that monitors and advocates for an end to the movement restrictions on Gaza, that there has been a slight easing of restrictions at Erez, the crossing for people between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
But in a post on its website today, Gisha says that such “fragments of information, the result of understandings that brought Operation Protective Edge to an end, serve only to remind us that critical decisions are being kept hidden from the Israeli and Palestinian public.”