Palestinians in Gaza are ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory and the outside world. Movement restrictions imposed by Israel since the early 1990’s and intensified in June 2007, following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, have severely undermined the living conditions. The isolation of Gaza has been exacerbated by restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on its single passengers crossing (Rafah), as well as by the internal Palestinian divide. The UN Secretary-General has found that the blockade and related restrictions contravene international humanitarian law as they target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed. Major escalations of hostilities in the past years have resulted in extensive destruction and internal displacement.
As part of the “policy of separation” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities prohibit the passage of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. Exceptions are made for certain categories - principally businesspeople, medical patients and their companions, employees of international organizations and specific humanitarian cases - who are eligible for exit permits, subject to security checks. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the Rafah Crossing since October 2014 and the inability of the Government of National Consensus to assume control over of the Palestinian side of the crossings, due to the ongoing internal divide.
Eight winter-related projects of the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan are underway following the allocation of around $3 million by the oPt Humanitarian Fund (HF) in late November 2016. More than two thirds of the projects are run by national NGOs either directly or in partnership with UN agencies/ international NGOs. The projects target more than 181,000 Palestinians who are at risk of displacement and/or face safety hazards due to winter weather conditions, particularly flooding and storms. Six projects are in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank.
The main export/transfer season for Gaza’s agricultural produce began in December. The volume of produce leaving Gaza has risen since late 2014, following the easing of Israeli restrictions on the exit of goods to markets in the West Bank and Israel. Revenues in 2016 (up to 8 December) totaled $11.9 million, an increase of almost 80 per cent compared with 2015 ($6.7 million) and more than five times higher than 2014 revenues ($2.2 million). Despite this improvement, 2016 revenues are about half of those recorded in 2007 when the blockade was imposed.
Additional restrictions imposed by Israel from April 2016 on the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip, have slowed the pace of reconstruction of homes destroyed or damaged during the 2014 conflict, and prolong the vulnerability of more than 10,000 families who are still displaced.
As the rainy season approaches, thousands of families in the Gaza Strip will once again be at risk of temporary displacement and the destruction of assets due to flooding. The winter weather conditions are expected to exacerbate the already fragile living conditions and livelihoods of large segments of the Palestinian population. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) cluster and its partners have identified flood risk areas throughout the Gaza Strip, potentially affecting nearly 500,000 people, as well as 64 schools and 10 health centres.
Israeli restrictions on the entry of national staff of aid organizations to and from the Gaza Strip have intensified during 2016. The denial rate for permit applications by national staff of UN agencies surged from four per cent in 2015 to 40 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 (see table). Available information indicates that the rate of denial for national staff of other humanitarian agencies has also risen.