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Cablegate: Gaza Humanitarian Update -- December 31

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PASCUAL/PRATT; PLEASE PASS TO USAID FOR
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAID PHUM KWBG ETRD IS
SUBJECT: GAZA HUMANITARIAN UPDATE -- DECEMBER 31

1. (SBU) Summary: Approximately 90 truckloads of
humanitarian supplies entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing
on December 31. The Gaza power plant is shut down, and Nahal
Oz remained closed for fuel imports. Karni crossing also
remains closed. Donor organizations continue to stress the
need to open Nahal Oz and Karni, and the difficulties of
distributing humanitarian supplies in a conflict environment.
End Summary.

Humanitarian Supplies are Entering...
-------------------------------------
2. (SBU) OCHA estimated 90 truckloads of humanitarian
supplies entered Kerem Shalom on December 31, and 90
truckloads entered on December 30. Both Karni and Nahal Oz
crossings remained closed, and UN contacts report
international agencies cannot provide enough wheat to feed
Gazans unless Karni opens. According to UN contacts, the
Gaza-based "Ministry of Health" has ordered wheat wholesalers
to bypass retailers and sell directly to the population.
Supplies coming through Rafah increased on December 30, and
included five ambulances from Turkey, four mobile power
generators, and five truckloads of medical supplies. Press
reports an ambulance and four tons of medical supplies from
Libya and Saudi Arabia entered through Rafah on December 31.

3. (SBU) According to OCHA, a shipment of 60 tons of
chlorine, needed to create potable water, was refused entry
on December 30. Current water purification supplies are
sufficient for approximately one week, according to UNICEF.

...but Distribution is the Challenge
------------------------------------
4. (SBU) With the resumption of shipments in recent days,
UNRWA aims to resume food distribution (suspended since
December 18) to 750,000 Gazans on January 1. UNRWA reports
current food stocks will allow for three days of
distribution. However, without opening Karni for massive
wheat deliveries, UNRWA contacts say they cannot sustain food
distribution for more than a few days. WFP re-started its
program on a limited basis and distributed bread in Beit
Hanoun on December 31.

5. (SBU) The Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel
reported to Econoff that air raids on December 27 destroyed
its switchboard and impacted phone services essential for
humanitarian operations. Paltel has requested the GOI
facilitate entry of needed telecom equipment into Gaza.

Fuel and Medical Update
-----------------------
6. (SBU) WHO contacts report that the medical supplies that
arrived on December 30 addressed many urgent needs. However,
they note Gaza hospitals lack laboratory chemicals, critical
care equipment, anesthesia supplies, and surgical items. One
doctor told Econ Specialist that medics are operating with
unsterilized equipment because of the shortage of surgical
kits. WHO contacts also report hospitals are running solely
on backup generators, and estimate the generators will not
last more than a week if power demands continue at current
levels. No fuel has entered Gaza since December 26, and
reserve supplies are depleted.

Patients Transferred to Egypt
-----------------------------
7. (SBU) Representatives of the Egyptian Consulate told
ConGenOffs that over 50 injured have exited through Rafah
since December 28. He said 40 ambulances and a
medically-equipped military plane are on standby at Rafah to
transport evacuees to hospitals in Cairo. OCHA reports no
patients exited through Erez on December 31.

Cash Shortage
-------------
8. (SBU) The two Israeli banks that provide correspondent
banking services to Palestinian banks will terminate that
relationship with Gaza branches at midnight on December 31,
according to banking contacts. The Palestine Monetary
Authority (PMA) reports it will request a permit from the GOI
to transfer cash into Gaza in order to disburse December PA
salaries and humanitarian payments on January 5. UNRWA has
volunteered to provide the necessary security, including
armored trucks, to transport cash from the crossings to the
banks. The PMA has agreed to work with UNRWA in this regard,
and Embassy Tel Aviv will present the proposal to COGAT/MOD.
WALLES

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