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.
Since 30 March 2018, the Gaza Strip has witnessed significant increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of mass demonstrations taking place along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza and, to a lesser extent, in the context of hostilities and other incidents. 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. Despite significant assistance provided, Gaza's health sector is struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties, due to years of blockade, internal divide and a chronic energy crisis, which have left essential services in Gaza barely able to function.
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. Since 9 July 2018, Israel has significantly tightened its restrictions on imports to Gaza and banned the exit of all goods, reportedly in response to the launching of incendiary kites from Gaza into Israel, which has caused extensive property damage.
In July, Israel tightened its longstanding blockade on the Gaza Strip, worsening the already desperate humanitarian situation. Measures adopted by the Israeli authorities included restricting imports to mainly food and medicine; a complete halt to the exit of all goods; and a reduction of the fishing area from six to three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast. The entry of fuel and cooking gas was also suspended during July for over one week, and again since 2 August (ongoing as of the time of writing). By the end of the month, the Palestinian Federation of Industries in Gaza indicated that over 4,000 workers in the construction sector had been temporarily laid off, primarily due to the shortage of construction materials.
Israel’s blockade on Gaza tightened: further import restrictions, a suspension of exports, and a reduction of the accessible fishing area. The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan is only 24 per cent funded, an all-time low, forcing agencies to scale down interventions. Over 100 million litres of poorly-treated sewage discharged into the sea every day, posing serious health and environmental hazards for Gaza’s population. Herding communities in, or next to, a “firing zone” in eastern Nablus governorate face an increasingly coercive environment due to various Israeli practices.
Funding for humanitarian activities is at an all-time low this year for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). At the end of July, the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requirements were only 24 per cent funded; this is a significantly lower level of funding compared with the same period over the past eight years. Humanitarian financing to the oPt has typically fluctuated in response to significant shifts in the context, with notable peaks in financial contributions in response to active hostilities in Gaza. Following the last escalation of hostilities in 2014, humanitarian financing to the oPt has been gradually, but definitively, decreasing year on year.
The immense electricity deficit affecting the Gaza Strip, alongside the longstanding shortage of adequate sanitation infrastructure, continues to result in the discharge of 100-108 million litres of poorly treated sewage into the sea every day. This situation poses serious health and environmental hazards, particularly during the summer when swimming in the sea is one of the few recreational activities available to the population of Gaza. According to WHO, water-related diseases are estimated to account for over one-fourth of illnesses and are the primary cause of child morbidity in the Gaza Strip. The current operation of wastewater treatment plants may be undermined further in the near future due to the funding gaps facing the UN programme of emergency fuel to run backup generators at critical facilities, , as well as the recent tightening of the blockade.
In recent months, citing security concerns, the Israeli authorities, and to a lesser extent Hamas, have tightened restrictions on the movement of Palestinian humanitarian staff out of Gaza. Measures by the Israeli authorities include an increase in the processing time for exit permits, a rise in denials and one-year bans, restrictions on the type of items allowed to be taken out of Gaza, and new crossing procedures at the vehicle terminal. The Hamas authorities have established a new registration point at the entrance to Gaza. These measures have increased uncertainty, delays and logistical impediments, and have a negative impact on humanitarian operations. The UN continues to conduct negotiations with all relevant actors in Israel and Gaza to alleviate these challenges.
Recent developments have exacerbated the vulnerability of Palestinians living in, or dependent on access to, an area in eastern Nablus governorate designated in the 1970s as closed for Israeli military training: “Firing Zone 904A”. These developments have included military exercises involving temporary displacement, property damage, disruption to life and new access restrictions. In recent years this area has witnessed increasing settlement activities, including violence and intimidation, alongside a reduced Palestinian presence.
Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, called on the Israeli authorities to immediately allow the entry of UN-purchased emergency fuel into the Gaza Strip.
“Restricting the entry of emergency fuel to Gaza is a dangerous practice, with grave consequences on the rights of people in Gaza,” said Mr. McGoldrick. “The well-being of two million people, half of whom are children, is at stake. It is unacceptable that Palestinians in Gaza are repeatedly deprived of the most basic elements of a dignified life.”