The Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, today called for the protection of Palestinians, particularly children and health workers, in the context of demonstrations taking place in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and for demonstrators to refrain from actions that prevent the functioning of the main entry point for humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip.
“With tensions high across Gaza and the West Bank this week, it is crucial that all efforts be exerted to avoid further deterioration and that responses by Israeli security forces to Palestinian demonstrators be in line with their obligations under international law,” said Mr. McGoldrick. “Children, in particular, should be protected. Where possible, they should not be the targets of violence and should be kept away from potentially violent situations.”
The lack of protection for health workers responding to the wounded is an increasing concern. Between 30 March and 4 May, at least 169 health personnel were reported injured and 18 ambulances damaged in the Gaza Strip. “It is inconceivable that first responders lack protective gear and must risk their own lives in order to provide first aid to the injured,” said Mr. McGoldrick, “Health workers must be protected at all times and the right to health respected.”
Following extensive damage to Kerem Shalom Crossing, caused by hundreds of demonstrators who stormed the Palestinian side of the facility on 11 May, Mr. McGoldrick stressed: “Humanitarian operations depend on the Kerem Shalom Crossing to get assistance to those in need in Gaza. I call on demonstrators to avoid actions that negatively affect the functioning of Gaza’s main entry point for humanitarian goods and on relevant authorities to quickly repair any damage.”
In the context of over 9,800 injuries since 30 March, the humanitarian response in Gaza has been focused on providing immediate life-saving healthcare, including provision of essential medicines, supplies and the deployment of emergency medical teams; providing mental health and psychological support for affected people, especially children; and monitoring, verifying and documenting possible protection violations.
“Humanitarian actors are responding, both to emerging needs as well as pre-existing ones, but funding is at an all-time low for this point in the year,” said Mr. McGoldrick. “The UN Central Emergency Response Fund’s allocation of US$1.26 million for the emergency health response in Gaza is an important step, one which we hope will be mirrored by additional contributions by other donors.”
The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, which requests $540 million in funding, 75 per cent of which is for Gaza, is currently only 16 per cent funded. An additional $5.3 million is required to meet health, psycho-social and protection needs emerging since 30 March 2018.
Since 30 March 2018, the Gaza Strip has witnessed a significant increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza. The demonstrations have occurred as part of the ‘Great March of Return’, a series of demonstrations, expected to continue up to 15 May, with large-scale demonstrations also expected in the West Bank on 14 and 15 May. Out of thousands of demonstrators in Gaza, hundreds have approached and attempted to breach the fence, burnt tires, threw rocks and burning kites and, to a lesser extent, fire bombs at Israeli forces, who have significantly increased its presence in the area, deploying tanks and snipers. The large number of casualties among unarmed demonstrators in Gaza, including a high percentage of demonstrators hit by live ammunition, has raised real concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli forces. The Gaza health system, already on the verge of collapse following years of blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and recurrent escalations of hostility, is struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties. On 11 May, for the second Friday in a row, hundreds of Palestinians broke into the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main point for the entry of humanitarian goods, and caused extensive damage, resulting in the closure of the crossing point until further notice.