March Overview: March 2017
Following the killing of a Hamas member in Gaza City on 24 March by unknown assailants, the Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza imposed new access restrictions. Exits through the ‘Arba-‘Arba checkpoint - which controls access to the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel – were particularly affected, further reducing the already small number of Palestinians in Gaza permitted to leave through Erez due to pre-existing Israeli-imposed restrictions. Until 6 April, 102 patients who had been referred for medical treatment outside Gaza missed their appointments and operations and will have to reschedule. These restrictions occurred before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced. On 6 April, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza announced that the restrictions imposed on the exit of people from Gaza had been removed.
The Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom Commercial Crossing has continued to operate without disruption. This is the sole entry point operating on a regular basis for the entry of goods, including building materials needed for the reconstruction of homes affected by the 2014 hostilities. Despite significant progress in reconstruction, 7,700 Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged were still displaced in February 2017. An article in this month’s Bulletin concerns the temporary shelter cash assistance (TSCA), which has been the primary form of assistance for eligible families while pending their return home. So far in 2017, no financial commitments have been given to support TSCA for non-refugees, and significant funding gaps exist for refugees, increasing the likelihood of debt accumulation and the adoption of negative coping mechanisms.
As part of the new access restrictions, the de facto authorities in Gaza had also prevented fishermen from going out to sea which, coinciding with the beginning of the sardine season, further undermined fishing livelihoods affected by the long-term six nautical mile access limit imposed by Israel. The livelihoods of Palestinian farmers in Gaza raising cattle and small ruminants have been also undermined recently due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease; as highlighted in this Bulletin, while the spread of the disease has slowed down, some farmers have resorted to selling their animals to reduce potential losses.
Another article addresses a series of recent measures targeting the residents of an East Jerusalem neighbourhood, home to the perpetrator of an attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in January 2017, raising concerns of collective punishment. One such measure entails the revocation of the residency rights of some of the perpetrator’s family members, which could result in their forcible transfer.
This month’s Bulletin features the impact of the access restrictions imposed on Palestinians ‘locked in’ in the settlement area of Hebron city, which have increased since October 2015, following a rise in Palestinian attacks and alleged attacks.
In this context, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, devoted his monthly briefing to the Council to reporting on developments since the adoption of UN Security Resolution 2334 in December 2016, which called on Israel to take steps “to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” “No such steps have been taken during the reporting period”, the Special Coordinator reported. Instead, “the reporting period has witnessed a notable increase in statements, announcements and decisions related to settlement construction and expansion.” The resolution also called for both parties to refrain from acts of provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, but the Special Coordinator noted with concern that “such actions continued during the reporting period”.