Summary of new UN investigation of latest Israeli assault on Gaza
By Sami Kishawi (courtesy of Sixteen Minutes to Palestine)
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (UN OCHA oPt) just published a 35-page initial rapid assessment of Israel’s latest invasion of Gaza which officially spanned eight days starting on November 14, 2012. The investigation more formally known as the Multi-Agency Initial Rapid Assessment of Gaza was conducted just days after a ceasefire brought relative calm to the territory.
The publishing of the report caps Phase 2 of a four-phase emergency assessment and action plan that UN agencies and Gaza-based NGOs have implemented. The report can be found in full here (PDF).
Here is a summary of the investigation’s findings (emphasis is my own):
- The 8-day assault began following Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari, acting chief of Hamas’ armed wing. Israel followed with repeated air strikes, naval shelling, and tank fire. Palestinians responded with rocket fire.
- According to the UN’s latest casualty counts, 103 Palestinian civilians were killed and 1,399 injured. There is no confirmed count for Palestinian resistance fighters. Four Israeli civilians were killed and 224 injured. Two Israeli soldiers were also confirmed dead.
- Israel destroyed or severely damaged 450 homes in the Gaza Strip. This statistic does not concern non-residential buildings. 8,000 homes suffered lesser damage.
- 14,920 Palestinians in Gaza became Internally Displaced Persons, including 12,000 who fled to UN-operated buildings or government-run schools. (Ironically, Israel targeted these very same institutions in its previous full-scale invasion in 2008-2009). Entire small communities (towns and refugee camps) claimed 100% displacement rates, meaning every family was forced to flee.
- 3,000 Palestinians are still displaced as a direct result of the assault.
- 66 schools were damaged as a direct result of Israel’s invasion: 35 in Gaza, 11 in Khan Younis, 9 in Deir Al-Balah, 7 in North Gaza, and 4 in Rafah. In North Gaza, kindergartens were also damaged.
- Israel’s invasion drastically undermined Gaza’s economic infrastructure. 80% of Palestinians in Gaza need some sort of assistance, and this is exacerbated by Israel’s land, air, and sea blockade, the investigation finds. According to the most recent estimates, 35% of Gaza’s farmland and 85% of Gaza’s fishing waters remains inaccessible to Palestinians.
- A focus group of women revealed an urgent need for: 1. psychosocial attention and training on coping mechanisms; 2. house repair guides to quickly and temporarily alleviate instances of displacement; 3. placing schools in safer areas; and 4. addressing electricity and water shortages, as well as sewage processing problems.
- Adults and children in Gaza experienced a sharp rise in cases of PTSD and general anxiety. In children, investigators noted an increase in cases of insomnia, hyperactivity, and bedwetting.
- As a measure of the extensiveness of Israel’s campaign, the Israeli military claims to have targeted 1,500 sites, three times as many as it did in 2008-2009.
- Israel targeted numerous water treatment facilities and garbage collection plants. Over a dozen main water pipelines and tens of water storage tanks and reservoirs were destroyed or damaged.
- During the assault, most of the population in Khan Younis had less than 4 hours per day of access to clean drinking water.
The information collected during this rapid assessment are based primarily off of interviews, surveys, and secondary sources (i.e. data from local NGOs). UN OCHA oPt promises a more extensive assessment in the future.
Although this report doesn’t explicitly treat specific incidents of human rights violations in the way the Goldstone Report was initially set to do four years ago, this rapid assessment does raise questions about Israel’s activity.
Why were so many schools damaged? By targeting three times as many sites as it did in Gaza four years ago, is Israel attempting to argue that it does not target civilians? Then how were over one hundred Gazan civilians killed? And what was Israel’s point in bombing water treatment facilities and sewage processing plants? How many families were displaced for a second time in the last four years? Ultimately, what does this say about Israel’s ongoing blockade and occupation, and how can this all be put to an end?
Hopefully these questions will be addressed in the UN’s next and more extensive assessment.