Monthly Overview: May 2016
More needs to be done to prevent another escalation in Gaza - UN Special Coordinator
The rate of demolitions across the West Bank slowed in May, following a sharp increase in the previous four months. However, the number of Palestinian structures destroyed since the beginning of 2016 has already exceeded the figures for all of 2015 (595 vs. 547). Referring to this year’s unprecedented figures, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, in his briefing to the Security Council, observed that “although many of the structures that have been demolished are not dwellings, the loss of water wells, solar panels and animal shelters has impacted the livelihoods of over 2,500 people.” Throughout the West Bank, demolitions generate a coercive environment that exacerbates the risk of forcible transfer of already vulnerable Palestinian communities.
The vast majority of demolitions occur in Area C, where the planning system makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain the requisite Israeli-issued building permits. One especially vulnerable community in the Nablus governorate, Khirbet Tana, experienced in April its fourth wave of demolitions so far this year. Dkaika, a Bedouin community in southern Hebron profiled in this month’s bulletin, came under heightened risk of forcible transfer following the Israeli authorities’ announcement of their intention to “relocate” it.
Developments in April led to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. On 8 April, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) shut down after exhausting its fuel reserves, prolonging the electricity outages and further undermining the delivery of services and the already limited economic activity. The functioning of the GPP has been significantly impaired over the past several years by multiple factors, including a longstanding dispute between Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah over the taxation of the fuel used to run the plant. A temporary agreement reached at the end of April allowed a return to the previous schedule of twelve hour rolling blackouts by mid- May.
On 23 May, the Israeli authorities resumed the import of cement for the private sector in Gaza, which had been suspended on 3 April, following a diversion of cement from the legitimate, intended beneficiaries. The situation was also resolved after 45 days of intense efforts by Palestinian and Israeli authorities and the United Nations. By the end of April 2016, about 23 per cent (4,064) of the approximately 18,000 homes destroyed or severely damaged in 2014 had been reconstructed or repaired, following cash assistance from UN agencies or other international support.
The situation of IDPs is also of concern due to the underfunding of humanitarian interventions aimed to address their immediate shelter needs: as of the end of March, only 12 per cent of the funding requested for the Shelter Cluster’s projects for 2016 has been provided. This situation is not unique to the Shelter Cluster, with low funding levels affecting the majority of projects included in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the oPt, which aims to support one in three Palestinians in 2016. By the end of March, only 20.5 per cent of the $571 million requested for 2016 was funded, compared to 36 per cent in the equivalent period in 2015.
Following an escalation of violence in Gaza in early May, the UN Special Coordinator warned that
“Recent events clearly demonstrate that the spectre of violence looms ominously over the territory. Unless radically more is done to address the chronic realities in Gaza, it is not a question of ‘if’, but rather of ‘when’ another escalation will take place. I once again encourage donors to fulfil their commitments to support Gaza’s reconstruction, recovery and development.”