The humanitarian vulnerability of Gaza’s population has been exacerbated by recent developments, which deepened the internal Palestinian divide, ongoing since the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in 2007. In March 2017, Hamas established a parallel institution to run local ministries in Gaza, a step seen as a direct challenge to the Palestinian government in Ramallah. In April, the Palestinian government reduced payments to thousands of public employees in the Gaza Strip. Subsequently, the failure to resolve a longstanding dispute between the two Palestinian authorities on issues related to tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers, resulted in Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) being forced to shut down completely. Compounded by a halt in the electricity supply from Egypt due to malfunctioning lines, this has triggered electricity blackouts of 20-22 hours a day.
On 17 April, Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. The shutdown occurred in the context of an ongoing dispute between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah on tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers.
Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip reported that in early April 2017, Israeli airplanes sprayed their farming land located along the perimeter fence with Israel with herbicides. The scope of land and farmers affected is yet to be assessed.
The construction of a new 2.5 km-long road on Palestinian land is currently underway by the Israeli authorities; it will bypass a section of Road 55 running through An Nabi Elyas village (Qalqiliya). Construction has already had an impact on livelihoods and the property rights of the village residents (approx. 1,500), and the negative impact is expected to increase once the road is complete. At least two additional bypass roads are reportedly planned by the Israeli authorities along Road 60: one road is next to Huwwara village (Nablus) and the other is next to Al Arrub Refugee Camp (Hebron).
In recent months, increased restrictions have been reported in the northern West Bank which are aﬀecting the access of farmers to their agricultural land isolated by the Barrier. These restrictions relate to a minimum area of land and land ownership documents required before Palestinian landowners can apply for permits to cross the Barrier. Although these restrictions have been included in previous ‘Standing Orders’ published by the Israeli authorities, which detail the regulations governing access to areas behind the Barrier, the concern is that stricter application of regulations will further restrict Palestinian access to agricultural land and livelihoods in Barrier-aﬀected areas.
Following the killing of a Hamas member in Gaza City on 24 March by unknown assailants, the Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza imposed new access restrictions. Exits through the ‘Arba-‘Arba checkpoint - which controls access to the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel – were particularly affected, further reducing the already small number of Palestinians in Gaza permitted to leave through Erez due to pre-existing Israeli-imposed restrictions. Until 6 April, 102 patients who had been referred for medical treatment outside Gaza missed their appointments and operations and will have to reschedule. These restrictions occurred before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced. On 6 April, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza announced that the restrictions imposed on the exit of people from Gaza had been removed.
In January 1997, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron. In the agreement, Israel handed over control of 80 per cent of Hebron city (18 km² known as H1) to the Palestinian Authority, while keeping full control over the remaining 20 per cent (known as H2). H2 includes four Israeli settlement compounds, home to a few hundred Israeli settlers and a population of over 40,000 Palestinians.
Following a rise in Palestinian attacks since October 2015, and citing the need for deterrence and prevention, the Israeli authorities have implemented measures that penalize Palestinians for acts that they did not commit and for which they are not criminally responsible. These measures include the destruction of the family homes of Palestinians who carried out an attack or are suspected of carrying out or planning attacks, and the closure of localities where some of these suspects lived. These practices raise concerns about collective punishment, which is prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
On 26 January 2017, the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in the Gaza Strip reported its first official outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) on cattle farms in North Gaza and Rafah. Early epidemiological evidence suggests that FMD may have been carried into the Gaza Strip by animals smuggled from Egypt. By 8 March 2017, FMD had affected 105 farms in Gaza: more than 3,000 cattle (a third of the total population), in addition to nearly 3,000 small ruminants (mostly sheep), slightly less than five per cent of the total.
On 28 February 2017, the Israeli State Comptroller released the findings of its investigation into decision-making by the Israeli Cabinet prior to the 2014 hostilities in the Gaza Strip. According to the report, the Cabinet ignored the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, despite early warnings provided by the military, particularly regarding the state of Gaza’s infrastructure. Addressing issues such as the hardship in Gaza ahead of time, according to the State Comptroller, “could have probably prevented the escalation”.