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.”
In July, humanitarian agencies in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) appealed to the international community to provide US$25 million in humanitarian funding for urgent lifesaving interventions to stabilize the situation in the Gaza Strip.
In April 2017, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) cleared the last known accessible aerial bomb in Gaza, marking an important milestone in addressing the legacy of unexploded ordnance contamination in Gaza. Since the 2014 conflict, UNMAS has cleared and destroyed 29 metric tonnes of explosive material from 149 unexploded aerial bombs. This critical work protects both Gaza communities directly impacted by the presence of unexploded ordnance and the wider community through the removal and destruction of explosive materials which could be harvested and reused for improvised explosive devices.
Settler violence and poor law enforcement by the Israeli authorities have been longstanding concerns. They have undermined the physical security and agricultural livelihoods of tens of thousands of Palestinians in some areas of the West Bank and generated the need for assistance and protection by humanitarian actors, especially for vulnerable groups such as children and women. Humanitarian interventions coordinated by the Protection Cluster include the deployment of a protective presence in high-risk areas; psychosocial support to victims; the installation of protective infrastructure (see case study); the documentation of cases and advocacy; and legal counselling.
During the month of Ramadan (27 May-26 June), Israeli authorities reported that around 348,000 Palestinians holding West Bank ID cards entered East Jerusalem for Friday prayers and Laylat al Qadr (the night of destiny) at Al Aqsa Mosque in relaxed measures to mark the month of Ramadan. This represents an increase of 15 per cent over the equivalent figures in 2016. Additionally, 453 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were allowed access to East Jerusalem for these events. While arrangements at checkpoints to facilitate travel to Al Aqsa Mosque, were put in place, vulnerable groups including elderly, children, and people with disabilities faced several challenges. During the month, one major Palestinian attack resulted in the death of an Israeli police officer and led to the partial suspension of the relaxation measures.
This Humanitarian Bulletin coincides with the 50th anniversary of the June 1967 war and the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. To mark the occasion, this issue revisits the cases of ten Palestinians who featured in previous OCHA publications, to illustrate some of the enduring humanitarian concerns in the oPt
For the past decade, the Gaza Strip has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit that has undermined its already fragile living conditions. The functioning of Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) is impaired by disputes between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah over the funding and taxation of fuel; the inadequate collection of bills from consumers; the destruction of fuel storage tanks by an Israeli strike in July 2014; and Israeli restrictions on imports of spare parts and equipment, citing security concerns. In April 2017 the GPP shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves. It resumed partial operations in late June with fuel purchased from Egypt. Gaza also relies on the purchase of electricity from Israel and Egypt.
In June 2007, following the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas and citing security concerns, Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza that intensified previous access restrictions. Along with the closure of the Rafah crossing by Egypt, the blockade ‘locked in’ nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza, unable to access the remainder of the oPt and the outside world. Exceptions are made for certain categories, including medical patients and their companions who must apply for a permit from the Israeli authorities to cross via the Erez crossing.
Since September 2000, Israel has tightened restrictions on Palestinian access to the sea, citing security concerns. These restrictions have been enforced through the firing of live ammunition, arrests and the confiscation of equipment. While sea restrictions have varied, since 2006 fishermen have generally been allowed to access less than one third of the fishing areas allocated to them under the Oslo Accords: six out of 20 nautical miles (NM), although this has temporarily been extended to nine NM during the sardine season in recent years.
As part of the blockade imposed in 2007 following the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, Israel completely banned exports. This resulted in a dramatic decline in manufacturing activities and a rise in unemployment. In 2010, the export ban was eased slightly to allow the exit of minimal quantities of goods, primarily cut flowers and strawberries to overseas markets only. Following the 2014 conflict, commercial transfers from Gaza to the West Bank resumed, first for agricultural produce and later for textiles and furniture; after March 2015, limited exports were also permitted from Gaza to Israel.