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Cablegate: Gaza Humanitarian Update -- December 29

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O 291623Z DEC 08
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3601
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 002300

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TAGS: ECON EAID PHUM KWBG ETRD IS
SUBJECT: GAZA HUMANITARIAN UPDATE -- DECEMBER 29

1. (SBU) Summary: An estimated 55 truckloads of
humanitarian supplies entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom
crossing on December 29, according to UN contacts. 21
truckloads entered on December 28. Food levels remain
critically low, and no fuel has entered Gaza since December
26. End Summary.

Humanitarian Assistance
-----------------------

2. (SBU) Approximately 55 trucks entered Gaza via Kerem
Shalom on December 29, the majority of which contained food
supplies. Seven truckloads contained medical supplies --
three for the Ministry of Health, three for ICRC, and one for
UNRWA. Five ambulances were delivered by the ICRC. In
addition, three truckloads of medical supplies from Egyptian
Red Crescent entered Gaza via Rafah crossing. On December
28, 21 truckloads -- including 15 for humanitarian aid
agencies -- entered via Kerem Shalom.

Medical Supplies and Health Care
-------------------------------
3. (SBU) There are 27 hospitals in Gaza (13 are MOH, the
remainder are private and NGO-run) with roughly a 2,000-bed
capacity. ICRC and PRCS have identified priority needs as
emergency surgical kits, emergency first aid kits, IV fluids,
and spare parts for generators and other medical equipment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), current
pharmaceutical stocks are sufficient for less than one week
in a conflict environment, and 25 percent of essential
pharmaceuticals and 225 consumable medical items are at zero
stocks. On December 28, ICRC and UNICEF delivered 400 "war
wounded" kits and 300 first aid kits to Gaza hospitals.
However, health sector workers in Gaza are overwhelmed with
more than 900 injured, at least 115 of whom are in critical
condition. Health workers report they are having difficulty
reaching their places of work due to ongoing IAF strikes.

Food supplies
-------------
4. (SBU) The most urgent food need in Gaza is for wheat
grain/flour, according to WHO contacts. UNRWA's emergency
food program for 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza has
been suspended since December 19 as a result of flour
shortages. Bakeries across Gaza are also reportedly closed.
UNRWA requires 3,000 MT of wheat (100 truckloads) to clear
the backlogged distributions and another 250 MT (7-8
truckloads) per day for regular distributions.

5. (SBU) On December 28, ten trucks of flour for WFP and
three trucks of food items for the private sector entered
Gaza. On December 29, UNRWA planned to bring in 10
truckloads of rice, sugar, and milk through Kerem Shalom and
1,200 metric tons of wheat via the Karni conveyor belt.
However, as of 1600, Karni was closed. UNRWA contacts noted
that importing bulk wheat grain is not possible at any other
crossing.

6. (SBU) Local business contacts report that few goods are
coming through the Gaza tunnel system, as tunnel operators
are concerned about IDF airstrikes and are staying home.

Fuel Supplies
-------------
7. (SBU) No fuel has entered Gaza since December 26. The
power plant remained operational through December 29 with one
turbine, but will be forced to shut down around midnight.
UNRWA reports that it has sufficient petrol and diesel
reserves for three weeks of operations, and can support
hospital generators on a limited basis for one month.

Cash
----
8. (SBU) The cash shortage in the formal banking sector
remains a critical issue. UNRWA's cash assistance program
for 94,000 special hardship cases remains suspended since
November 20, and UNRWA staff were paid only 50 percent of
their December salaries.
WALLES

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