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Urgent need for humanitarian aid in Gaza

22 July

22 July 2014 - Five days ago, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), was sheltering around 22,000 people. That number has now more than quadrupled, with fears of overcrowding in the shelters growing more acute by the hour. Since the Israeli operation began on July 8, tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes and are seeking shelter in 69 schools run by UNRWA.

UNRWA notes that the number of displaced people seeking safety in their facilities has now reached 118.300.  According to Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the maximum amount of people that their facilities can hold is around 100.000.

UNRWA has launched an emergency appeal for US$60 million, which would cover one month of emergency work and 3-6 months of a recovery phase for repair and rebuilding. “If governments don’t respond to the appeal in the next days, our emergency work will be curtailed,” Gunness told IRIN News.

Despite a call for an immediate ceasefire by the UN Security Council, the violence has shown few signs of abating. Sunday 20 July was the most deadly since the latest round of hostilities began on 8 July, with 13 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians. More than 600 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed in the past 14 days of fighting, officials say.

Responding to the growing needs of civilians affected by the conflict, aid agencies have mobilized relief supplies from the International Humanitarian City (IHC), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where a 747 cargo took off carrying 115 metric tons of aid, containing 45,000 mattresses, 10,000 blankets and 220 hygiene kits.

In the coming days, more airlifts are scheduled to arrive in Amman, from where UNRWA will truck the aid into Gaza for distribution. UNRWA plans to expand the scope of the donations to include emergency food parcels as stocks of food and other essential goods dwindle.

The main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the provision of food, water, mattresses and hygiene items, amongst other necessities. The World Food Programme (WFP) continues to provide daily food rations together with UNRWA, and have assisted more than 50 000 in the past 24 hours.

A diplomatic push to broker a truce in the Gaza Strip is intensifying, as Israel continues its military operation against militants in the territory.

The question about where to flee, however, remains pertinent.

The borders with Egypt and Israel are still all but closed due to a seven-year blockade on Gaza, leaving the enclave sealed off. As IRIN News visited one of the UNRWA shelters, a local inhabitant echoed a popular refrain when he asked: “Where are we going to go?”

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