Despite the heightened hardship and uncertainty that characterized 2020, the year ended with cautious optimism, following the worldwide launch of a COVID-19 vaccination campaign. In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), this campaign is yet to start; however, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has applied for financial support and has developed a national plan aimed at mass vaccination in the near future. Israel began vaccination in mid-December, and currently ranks first globally in per capita coverage. The Israeli authorities have expressed their readiness to support vaccinations both in the West Bank and in Gaza, however practical arrangements are yet to come to fruition. Health and human rights organizations have called on the Israeli authorities to “live up to their legal obligations and ensure that quality vaccines” are also provided to Palestinians.
The 2020 olive harvest season, which took place in October and November, was an exceptionally poor one in terms of oil yield. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture expects a total of 13,000 tons of olive oil (including some 1,500 tons in the Gaza Strip), which represents a more than 55 per cent decrease compared with 2019. This has been attributed to the alternate fruit-bearing “on and off seasons”, coupled with poor rainfall distribution and temperature extremes during the growing cycle.
“I have lived in rented accommodation for the past 25 years,” said Sabreen, aged 40, who lives in Beach Camp, near Gaza City, along with her husband and six children. “During these years, I was evicted 15 times for not paying rent. My husband was a fisherman, but he has been ill for the last six years and can’t work.”
Rana, a 14 -year-old girl from Khan Younis, had to spend three weeks in quarantine at home, after being in contact with a relative who tested positive for COVID-19. She spent this period with her father and siblings, while her mother was outside the country. "I was very afraid of what might happen to us and wasn’t able to do my homework or anything else,” said Rana.
In a number of separate rulings issued in recent months, Israeli courts ordered the eviction of a large number of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, and the handover of the properties to Israeli settler organizations. (See Recent eviction rulings in East Jerusalem, below).
“On 17 November, I was driving to pick up my sister when I saw a big bulldozer, and I thought to myself that a demolition will probably take place in one of our neighboring communities”, recalled Radad Dagharme, from Al Farisyia herding community, in the northern Jordan Valley.
The humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in August and September continued to be dominated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On 24 August, the Gaza Strip detected its first infection cases in the community. In response, the local authorities declared a state of emergency and enforced a lockdown, which has been gradually eased as the rate of transmission decreases. However, these restrictions have exacerbated already poor living conditions and related concerns in Gaza. Mental health is one such concern, as evidenced in the increase in suicide rates, which is the subject of one article in this Humanitarian Bulletin.
A disturbing number of suicides in recent months has highlighted a growing public health issue in the occupied Palestine territory (oPt), particularly in the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of 2020, 24 people, including four women and five children, have reportedly taken their lives, compared to 22 reported suicides in all of 2019. These figures probably do not convey the full extent of the problem in the oPt, where suicide is shrouded in social stigma, ‘shame’ and ‘sinfulness’, as well as potential legal ramifications.
On 26 September 2019, the cleaner at Al Bahrain Elementary Boys School in Gaza city found a suspicious object in the school backyard. The school is run by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
Samer Zahdeh, a 35-year-old father of four, resides in Ash Shuhada Street. This is the most restricted part of H2, the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city, where the Israeli settlement compounds are located. His three-year-old son Adam, suffers from diabetes and requires frequent monitoring and provision of insulin. On 17 July, Adam needed his insulin, but the insulin pen they had at home was broken. Samer rushed to ‘Checkpoint 56’, which controls movement between Ash Shuhada Street and Bab az Zawieh, one of Hebron’s commercial areas in H1 (the Palestinian-controlled area of the city), in order to reach a pharmacy. “The soldiers at the checkpoint told me that I cannot leave. I tried to explain the situation to them, but they told me that it’s not their problem and that I cannot cross until the clashes that were ongoing on the other side of the checkpoint were over”.