Amount of Decision: Euro 1.35 million
Decision reference number: ECHO/PSE/BUD/2004/02000
1 - Rationale, needs and target population.
1.1. - Rationale:
This funding decision is to contribute in response to the $ 15.84 million Supplementary Appeal, launched on 31 May 2004 by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to meet the immediate needs of the people in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, following weeks of the most intense destruction in Gaza since the start of the second Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.
This funding decision takes into account further needs that emerged during the month of June 2004 as a direct consequence of continued destruction, on the basis of detailed information provided by UNRWA. Contributions received by UNRWA from other donors in response to the above-mentioned Supplementary Appeal are also taken into consideration.
Funds made available through this decision provide a humanitarian response to the benefit of the civilian population affected by the destruction. These funds do not absolve the occupying power of its responsibility to uphold international humanitarian law (IHL), and in particular its legal obligations under the 1907 Hague Regulations and 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.
Since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupation forces have repeatedly undertaken military operations in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the Rafah area, in search for armed militants. In the course of these operations, a significant number of houses have been demolished or seriously damaged. In the Rafah area only, according to UN sources(1), from 1 May until 24 May, 277 buildings, housing 641 families, or 3.451 individuals, have been demolished. Since the start of the Intifada, 1.476 building have been demolished in Rafah, affecting 14.666 people, whereas as of 30 May 2004, more than 2.000 homes have been demolished in the whole of the Gaza Strip, affecting more than 21.000 refugee and nonrefugee people(2).
Significant damage was also done to Rafah's infrastructure, agricultural land and other private and commercial properties, including refugee shelters, UNRWA schools and sewage and water systems.
In the wake of these events, the population in the areas affected find themselves in a dire humanitarian situation, one that is more bleak and precarious than at any time since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada. This is a society entrenched in poverty, with limited prospects of alleviation. Over 75% of the 1.1 million estimated population of the Gaza Strip is now living below the poverty line of € 2/day, and approximately 40% of the labor force is unemployed - almost double the pre-Intifada level.
A number of states and international organizations have denounced these demolitions as a violation of IHL. In particular:
- On May 19, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution expressing grave concerns for "the recent demolitions of homes committed by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Rafah refugee camp" and called on Israel to respect its obligation under IHL, in particular "not to undertake demolition of homes contrary to that law." The UN Security Council also expressed "grave concern regarding the humanitarian situation of Palestinians made homeless in the Rafah area" and called "for the provision of humanitarian assistance to them".(3)
- On May 19, speaking as President of the Council of the European Union, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen declared that Israel's military action in the Gaza Strip "was completely disproportionate to any threat faced by the Israeli military and that Israeli forces showed a reckless disregard for human life. I would once again remind Israel, the occupying power, that the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War is fully applicable to the Gaza Strip."
- The EU position was reiterated by the European Council of 17/18 June last. In the conclusions the Presidency, inter alia "...expresses deep concern at the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and calls on the Israeli Government, in line with international law and UN security Council Resolution 1544, to cease demolitions and to take urgent action to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians".
- On 11 June 2004, The Consuls Generals and the Heads of the Representative Offices of the EU Member States in Jerusalem concluded in a text on house demolitions in Rafah that "any move to withhold funds from UNRWA or other relief agencies would undoubtedly hurt those who are most vulnerable, i.e. the refugees. At the same time, the EU-HOMS holds that it is incumbent on the international donor community to ensure that the principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are upheld by every means possible".
(1)UNRWA press release of 26 May 2004
(2)UNRWA press releases of 24 and 31 May 2004.
(3)UN Security Council Resolution 1544 of May 19, 2004. S/RES/1544 (2004).