Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of about two million Palestinians in that area. Many of the restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a blockade. These restrictions continue to reduce access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupt family life, and undermine people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future.
The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents. This crisis has been driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade and an unsolved internal Palestinian divide, exacerbated since March 2018 by the massive increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence, as well as limited escalations in hostilities. The following indicators were identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to monitor the crisis, trigger humanitarian action and prevent further deterioration.
Electricity supply in Gaza increased up to 18 hours a day in some areas, following the provision of additional fuel to operate the Gaza Power Plant. Only 22 per cent of patients injured during the Gaza demonstrations, who were referred for follow- up surgery in the West Bank or Israel have been granted Israeli exit permits. 97 per cent of ground water extracted in Gaza is unfit for human consumption, generating the risk of a waterborne disease outbreak. The number of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians and their property during 2018 grew by 57 and 175 per cent, compared with 2017 and 2016, respectively.
During the first week of November, residents of the Gaza Strip experienced some respite from the deteriorating humanitarian situation. First, the electricity supply increased up to 18 hours a day in some areas, from 4-5 hours in previous months, following the provision of additional fuel to operate the Gaza Power Plant. Second, around 27,000 civil servants, hired by Hamas after the 2007 takeover, were paid their August salaries, while 50,000 of the poorest families began receiving an US$ 100 allocation. These developments have been made possible due to funding provided by the Government of Qatar, and following Israel’s authorization of the entry of the fuel and cash into Gaza. In addition, while the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations along the perimeter fence continue, there has been a significant decline in clashes between demonstrators and Israeli forces and a resulting decrease in casualties.
While participating in a demonstration near the Gaza fence with Israel on 6 April 2018, a university student in his mid-twenties was shot and injured in his left hip by Israeli forces. He was standing about 30-40 metres from the barbed wire fence inside Gaza territory and burning a tyre with other demonstrators.
A recent report prepared by the RAND Corporation warns that if the chronic state of emergency in Gaza’s water and sewage sector continues, an endemic disease outbreak or other public health crisis is imminent, with the risk of it spreading to Israel and Egypt. The projection is based on data collected by Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) partners and authorities over previous years, analysis of the expected impact of recent developments, and lessons learnt from disease outbreaks in Haiti, Yemen and Iraq. The report emphasised that cooperation between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt is vital if an epidemic is to be pre-empted.
The high level of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians reported during the first four months of 2018 in an earlier Humanitarian Bulletin, continued through October as the annual olive harvest began. Since the start of 2018, OCHA has documented 217 incidents attributed to Israeli settlers that have resulted in Palestinian casualties (60 incidents) or in damage to Palestinian property (157 incidents). As a monthly average, this is the highest level of incidents recorded since 2014 and represents a 57 and 175 per cent increase compared with 2017 and 2016 respectively (see chart).
Friday demonstrations near Israel’s perimeter fence around Gaza continued, resulting in the killing of four Palestinians and the injury of 531 others by Israeli forces. All fatalities occurred on 26 October, when hundreds of demonstrators reached the fence and, according to Israeli sources, threw a relatively large number of Molotov cocktails, homemade grenades and incendiary balloons, alongside various attempts to breach the fence. By contrast, the following Friday, 2 November, witnessed a dramatic reduction in violent clashes and ended without fatalities. Israeli sources indicated that no incendiary kites or balloons were launched during that day and that no attempts to breach the fence were recorded. Of the injuries recorded, 405 were hospitalized, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH).
Since 30 March 2018, the Gaza Strip has witnessed a significant increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of mass demonstrations and other activities along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza, taking place as part of the «Great March of Return», as well as during hostilities. The large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including a high percentage of demonstrators hit by live ammunition, has raised concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli troops. Exposure of children to violence along with media reports of the militarization of children are also of concern. Despite significant assistance provided, Gaza's health sector is struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties, due to years of blockade, the internal divide and a chronic energy crisis, which have left essential services in Gaza barely able to function.
On Friday, 12 October, seven Palestinians, including a 17-year-old child, were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, during the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations and clashes at Israel’s perimeter fence. According to Israeli sources, there was a significant increase in the throwing of Molotov cocktails, homemade grenades and incendiary balloons towards Israeli forces during demonstrations, as well as in damage to the fence, with four of the fatalities shot after they breached the fence and reached a military post inside Israel. The scope of confrontations reportedly declined during the demonstrations held the following Friday, 19 October, which ended with no fatalities. In total, 831 people were injured during both Fridays, of whom 590 were hospitalized, including 271 hit by live ammunition, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.