Thursday, 27 November 2014

UNRWA declares state of emergency in Gaza amid severe flooding

The UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA on Thursday evening declared a state of emergency in Gaza City amid massive rains that have shut down normal life in parts of the besieged coastal enclave's largest city.

A major storm over the past week has filled the streets of Gaza City with water and sewage, causing further misery for the more than 100,000 Palestinians left homeless -- including nearly 30,000 still staying in emergency shelters -- from Israel's massive offensive over summer that also left nearly 2,200 dead.

UNRWA said in a statement that 63 schools across Gaza City and 43 schools across the Northern Gaza Strip governorate had been closed Thursday due to the flooding.

Hundreds of residents in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City had also been evacuated due to the rise of a "storm water lagoon" that had flooded many homes in the area.

"The flooding is exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza caused by blockade and the unprecedented destruction from the latest Israeli offensive," the UN agency said in a post on its Facebook.

The agency, which is already massively stretched due to the summer's conflict, said that it was "providing emergency fuel to supply back-up generators for pumping stations, portable pumps, municipalities, water, sanitation and health facilities."

It is also preparing to provide shelter for those displaced the storm "should the need arise." more

UNICEF: 425,000 children in Gaza need immediate psychosocial support

More than 400,000 children in Gaza need "immediate psychosocial and child protection support" following Israel's devastating assault, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The data is contained in an October report produced by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At least 538 Palestinian children are confirmed killed by Israeli military attacks during so-called 'Operation Protective Edge', says UNICEF. More than two-thirds of the child fatalities, 68 percent, were 12 years old or younger.

The UN agency reports that nearly 425,000 children in Gaza are in need of immediate psychosocial and child protection support, including at least 3,373 injured children (some with permanent disabilities), as well as more than 1,500 children who were orphaned.

All require urgent support "to deal with acute levels of psychosocial distress and vulnerability at a time when several neighbourhoods and villages of the Gaza Strip still lie in ruins."

The report includes the story of 10-year-old Shaima from Shuja'iyya in eastern Gaza City, who, like many others, is regularly seen at home by a counsellor.

Her neighbourhood is "now mostly reduced to a vast expanse of rubble" with "the threat of explosive remnants" looming "around every corner." more

Israel fires shell at eastern Gaza after shots hit army vehicle

Israeli forces fired a tank shell at eastern Gaza on Thursday after shots hit an army vehicle patrolling the border area, Israel's army said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said shots were fired at an Israeli army vehicle during a "routine patrol," damaging the vehicle but causing no injuries.

A tank responded by firing a shell into Gaza.

The shelling is the most serious incident along the Gaza border since a Palestinian man was shot and killed on Sunday while hunting birds east of Jabaliya.

Fadil Muhammad Halawah, 32, was the first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in late August, ending 50 days of violence which killed over 2,000 Palestinians. more

Hamas: UN amends Gaza reconstruction plan after talks

A senior Hamas official claimed Thursday that the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has amended a reconstruction plan for Gaza after a request by Hamas officials.

Senior official Mousa Abu Marzouq said Wednesday evening that a Gaza reconstruction deal brokered by the UN in September was not discussed with the movement.

The official, speaking on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV Channel, said "Hamas neither agreed to the plan verbally, nor on paper."

"We requested amendments and some items of the plan were amended. All that the international envoy requested was to secure the movement of UN teams in Gaza," he added, without providing any details about the nature of the amendments.

The official said that Qatar is the only country that has kept its promises to the Gaza Strip.

Abu Marzouq also briefly spoke about political reconciliation and blamed Fatah for trying to exclude Hamas and lacking the political will for unity.

Hamas is determined to achieve reconciliation, he added. more

2 children die in Gaza fire

GAZA (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinian children died and a number of other family members were injured in a fire that broke out in their apartment in the al-Nusairat neighborhood in western Gaza City on Wednesday.

Spokesman for the health ministry Ashraf al-Qidra said that Mohammad Zuhdi Abu Ghalyoun, 15, and his brother Abd al-Rahman, 7, both arrived dead at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.

Al-Qidra added that their parents and a brother were lightly injured in the fire.

Police are investigating the cause of the fire.

Due to frequent electricity cuts caused by the Israeli siege, many Palestinian families in Gaza use candles for light and warmth during the winter. more