A farmer tends his hanging strawberries in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. © FAO/Masoud Keshta.

Monthly Overview: December 2016

Published as part of

On 19 December, the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) was publicly launched. The plan seeks US $547 million in donor funding to support the humanitarian needs of vulnerable Palestinians whose livelihoods and rights have been undermined by almost 50 years of Israeli military occupation, compounded by recurrent escalations in violence, a ten year-long blockade on the Gaza Strip, and internal Palestinian divisions.

Over half of the requested funding (US$ 300 million) are aimed at addressing food insecurity among more than 1.6 million Palestinians, who are not consuming enough nutritious and varied food. This is primarily related to the erosion of livelihoods by longstanding access restrictions and the destruction of productive assets, which have undermined income and led to high unemployment rates (over 43 per cent in Gaza and nearly 20 per cent in the West Bank).

This Humanitarian Bulletin highlights two major events related to the agricultural livelihoods of tens of thousands of Palestinian families: the yearly olive harvest, which takes place mainly in the West Bank and has recently ended, and the main marketing season for Gaza agricultural produce, which has just started.

While a poor yield is expected for this season (related to the natural cycle), olive harvest activities have proceeded relatively smoothly. Disruptions due to Israeli settler attacks, including the number of trees vandalized, significantly declined compared to previous years, partly due to the enhanced deployment of Israeli military forces in sensitive areas. Additionally, the rate of approval of permit applications to access olive groves in the closed areas behind the Barrier has increased. However, Palestinian access to these areas, as well as to groves within or near Israeli settlements, has remained limited to the harvest and ploughing seasons, impeding essential year-round agricultural activities. Data collected by OCHA over the last three years in the northern West Bank show that olive trees in the area behind the Barrier have an approximately 65 per cent reduction in yield compared to their equivalents in areas which can be accessed year-round.

In Gaza, the main season for the export and transfer of agricultural produce has recently started. The overall revenues from the marketing of produce outside Gaza in 2016 (as of 8 December) was 80 per cent higher than in 2015, primarily due to the easing of Israeli restrictions, and is expected to further increase in 2017. However, these revenues remain significantly below those recorded prior to the imposition of the blockade in 2007. An additional easing of access restrictions could provide much needed relief from unemployment and food insecurity, pending a full lifting of the blockade. These could include the removal of quotas and restrictions on produce allowed to reach Israeli markets; reversing restrictions on the import of agricultural inputs classified by Israel as ‘dual-use’ items; and allowing access to the farmland in restricted areas along Gaza’s perimeter fence.

On 23 December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements, and demanding that Israel cease all settlement activities. The resolution also condemned all acts of violence against civilians, as well as incitement and destruction. This month’s Bulletin presents the second in a series of articles on the de facto expansion of settlements and its humanitarian impact on Palestinian communities, featuring the settlements Talmon and Nahliel in the Ramallah governorate. The area controlled by these settlement, where Palestinian access is severely restricted or impossible, is almost 2.5 times larger than the official Israeli-designated municipal boundaries. Within these de facto boundaries, settlers have developed, without permits but with the acquiescence of the Israeli authorities, various residential, farming and touristic areas, linked by an extensive road network. The official and de facto expansion of Talmon and Nahliel has severely impacted the livelihoods of farmers and herders from six nearby villages.