Driven by ongoing electricity outages of 18-20 hours a day, an unresolved salary crisis in the public sector, and a blockade restricting the movement of people and goods, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remains extremely precarious.
People with disabilities and special needs have been disproportionately affected by the deterioration in living conditions in the Gaza Strip since March 2017. This situation is driven by a worsening energy crisis, which has resulted in outages of 18-20 hours a day, and an exacerbation of the salary crisis in the public sector, both of which are linked to an escalation in internal Palestinian divisions.1 In the midst of this crisis, Gaza’s unemployment rate reached 44 per cent in the second quarter of 2017 (April-June), up from 41.1 per cent in the previous quarter and 41.7 per cent in the same period of 2016.
The volume of people allowed to move in and out of Gaza has declined further since the beginning of 2017 in comparison with the previous two years, particularly via the Israeli-controlled crossing (Erez). Movement via Rafah, the Egyptian controlled crossing, also remains at extremely low levels. This has exacerbated the isolation of Gaza from the remainder of the oPt and the outside world, further limiting access to medical treatment unavailable in Gaza, to higher education, to family and social life, and to employment and economic opportunities. The tightening of restrictions in recent months has also obstructed the movement of national staff employed by the UN and international NGOs and impeded humanitarian operations.
A new fence installed by the Israeli authorities around two Palestinian neighbourhoods in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), As Salaymeh and Gheith, further separates up to 1,800 Palestinians from the rest of the city. This is in addition to the recent reinforcement (including the installment of turnstiles) of two pre-existing checkpoints controlling access to the area where the new fence was installed. These developments disrupt the livelihoods and family life of Palestinians living in the two neighbourhoods and limit access to basic services like health and education.
The targeting of key service infrastructure in already vulnerable communities in Area C in recent months has exacerbated the coercive environment and places residents at risk of forcible transfer. In August, on the eve of the new school year, the Israeli authorities requisitioned nine educational-related structures serving 170 children in three such communities.
Many Palestinians in East Jerusalem are subject to a coercive environment due to a range of Israeli policies, including home demolitions and forced evictions, highlighted in this month’s Bulletin. The hardship generated by this environment is illustrated by the case of the Shamasneh family, who have lived in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since 1964, and were forcibly evicted from their home on 5 September, following a protracted legal battle. As has occurred in other evictions, the home was immediately handed over to Israeli settlers. This is the first such eviction in Sheikh Jarrah since 2009. The advancement of four Israeli settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah would, if approved, lead to the eviction of over 70 additional Palestinian residents, and likely result in restrictions and tensions that will undermine the living conditions of Palestinian residents of the area.
The severity of electricity outages in the Gaza Strip continued in August, ranging from 18 to 20 hours a day. This had a detrimental impact on the availability of essential services and undermined Gaza’s already fragile economy.
The hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups from 8 July to 26 August 2014 were the most devastating in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967. They resulted in the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, including at least 1,462 civilians, and 71 Israelis, of whom five were civilians. Over 11,000 Palestinians were injured, including hundreds of people left with a long-term disability, and huge numbers of the population, particularly children, were traumatized.
Recent developments in East Jerusalem highlight the coercive environment affecting many Palestinian residents of the city. Four recently-advanced settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood threaten with eviction over 70 Palestinian residents.
In his briefing to the UN Security Council on 25 July, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, described the situation in the Gaza Strip as follows: “Two million people have been taken hostage in the political standoff between Fatah and Hamas. The humanitarian impact of the punishing measures taken against Gaza is appalling. In some parts of Gaza people have experienced electricity cuts of 36 hours. No electricity means no drinking water. Hospitals are struggling to survive. An environmental crisis is in the making.”