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Cablegate: Gaza Humanitarian Update -- December 30

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SUBJECT: GAZA HUMANITARIAN UPDATE -- DECEMBER 30

1. (SBU) Summary: An estimated 100 truckloads of
humanitarian supplies entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing
and five truckloads entered through Rafah on December 30,
according to PA Crossing Authority contacts. The Gaza power
plant was forced to shut down its only functioning turbine
around 0300. Gaza medical clinics remain underequipped to
deal with the large number of casualties. In a briefing to
donors, UNRWA officials emphasized that access through the
crossings is the most vital component in meeting humanitarian
needs in Gaza, and stressed the urgency of opening Karni and
Nahal Oz for wheat and fuel deliveries. End Summary.

Humanitarian Access
-------------------
2. (SBU) Approximately 100 truckloads of humanitarian
supplies entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing on December
30, according to PA Crossing Authority contacts.
Approximately 60 trucks went to UNRWA and other international
agencies and 40 to the private sector. Five trucks with
humanitarian goods entered Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah
crossing as of 1600, and local press reports additional
supplies donated by Arab countries are being transferred.
UNRWA contacts report that its most urgent priority is
restarting food distribution to 750,000 Gazans and emphasized
the critical need to open all commercial crossings,
especially Karni, because of its conveyor system used to
transport wheat and other bulk items.

3. (SBU) The wheat shortage is the most urgent food need in
Gaza, according to UNRWA. Bakeries remain closed, and
UNRWA's emergency food program has been suspended since
December 18. Local contacts report few stores in Gaza remain
open, and food prices have risen beyond already high levels,
leading to hoarding.

Fuel Shortage
-------------
4. (SBU) The Gaza power plant was forced to shut down its
only functioning turbine around 0300 on December 30,
according to OCHA. GEDCO (Gaza's main power distributor)
reports that the average daily power cuts throughout the
northern half of the strip last up to 16 hours/day. UNRWA
reports most locations in northern Gaza have only 4-6 hours
of electricity; other areas have up to 8 hours. No fuel
(petrol or diesel) has entered Gaza through the crossings
since December 26, and the Gaza Gas Station Owners
Association reported to OCHA that no fuel has transferred
through Rafah border tunnels because of IDF attacks.

Medical Update
--------------
5. (SBU) Gaza hospitals and clinics remain understaffed and
underequipped to deal with the large number of casualties.
The four truckloads of medical supplies that entered on
December 29 re-supplied 90 or 105 essential medicines, and
120 of 225 consumable medical items. However, an ICRC
spokesman stated publicly that the ICRC remains "in desperate
need of supplies" and that the organization has received only
a fraction of its needs. Dr. Mahmoud al-Khozendar of Gaza
City's al-Shifa Hospital publicly reported on December 30
that "people are suffering and dying because of (these)
shortages." UNRWA representatives report that those with
injuries such as shattered bones or torn limbs are being
turned away because of the lack of capacity to treat them.

Evacuation of Critical Condition Patients
-----------------------------------------
6. (SBU) According to UNRWA, the Medical Referral Abroad
program, managed by the Ministry of Health in Ramallah, has
been defunct since the medical workers strike in Gaza in
September. As a result, few emergency medical cases are
exiting through Erez to hospitals in Jerusalem or the West
Bank. UNRWA reports it took 72 hours to coordinate the exit
of an UNRWA student with a shrapnel head wound through Erez.
Embassy Cairo reports around 40 wounded Gazans were allowed
into Egypt on December 29 for medical treatment.

Cash
----
7. (SBU) The shortage of cash in Gaza banks has exacerbated
the humanitarian situation, according to local contacts.
UNRWA has nearly 10,000 staff and 7,000 job creation program
(JCP) beneficiaries, but was unable to pay JCPs and has only
paid 50% of regular staff salaries in December. UNRWA was
forced to stop payments to 94,000 special hardship cases in
November. UNRWA's early December request for the GOI to
permit the transfer of USD 20m and NIS 20m from the West Bank

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