With the onset of winter, an estimated 235,000 people, living in low-lying areas in the Gaza Strip lacking adequate infrastructure, are at risk of flooding, due to the possible overflow of stormwater facilities and sewage pumping stations. Initial reports indicate that approximately 2,000 homes have already been flooded,following heavy rains recorded on 8 and 9 December 2019. As the first article in this month’s Humanitarian Bulletin explains, this is due to the lack of maintenance and repair of these facilities, compounded by a shortage of fuel to operate backup generators. Underfunding drives these deficits: in 2019, less than 74 per cent of the $68 million needed to operate Gaza’s 484 public water and sanitation facilities was secured.
Muslih A’ta Wafi lives with his wife and seven children on the ground floor of a threestorey house in one of the lowest points of Khan Younis city. “In preparation for the 2018 winter season, we added another layer to the floor to raise it and prevent flooding,” said Muslih. “Unfortunately, this only prevented light rain from flooding the house, but whenever it rained heavily, our home flooded with a mix of sewage and rainwater. Last year, we lost most of our furniture.”
Basheer Sous, President of the Beit Jala Farmers’ Society, owns several plots of land in the Al Makhrour area of Beit Jala in Bethlehem governorate, which he shares with his brothers. Al Makhrour extends for approximately 3,000 dunums and in addition to Beit Jala, includes land which the villages of Al Walaja, Batir, Husan, Wadi Fukin and Nahalin have traditionally used. The apricot, olive, fig and almond trees in Al Makhrour, irrigated by natural springs, are an important source of livelihood for farmers from these communities.
In the early hours of 12 November, the Israeli Air Force targeted and killed a commander of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and his wife, while they were sleeping in their home in the northern Gaza Strip. The incident triggered an escalation in hostilities between Israel and various Palestinian armed factions, excluding Hamas. On the morning of 14 November, a cessation of hostilities entered into force and has been largely holding.
Evictions have become routine for Eitidal, aged 30, a wife and mother of two daughters: Layali, 11, and Rimas, 7. Her husband, Medhat, 33, suffers from epileptic seizures and psychological problems, and has been unable to find regular employment. Over the past few years, the family has been evicted twice over accumulated, unpaid rent.
“I have been fishing since I was ten years old and fishing is the only source of income for my wife, myself and our 10 children,” said Fadi, a 44-year-old fisher from Gaza city.
On 1 April 2019, the Israeli authorities expanded the permissible fishing area along the southern and central parts of Gaza’s coast from six up to 15 nautical miles (NM) offshore, the furthest distance that Gaza’s fishers have been permitted to access since 2000. Access to the northern areas along the coast remain more limited at up to 6 NM, well below the 20 NM agreed under the Oslo Accords
The annual olive harvest, which takes place every year between October and November, is a key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians. In the West Bank, more than 10 million olive trees are cultivated on approximately 86,000 hectares of land, representing 47 per cent of the total cultivated agricultural area. Between 80,000 and 100,000 families are said to rely on olives and olive oil for primary or secondary sources of income, and the sector employs large numbers of unskilled laborers and more than 15 per cent of working women. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the olive oil yield for the West Bank in 2019 is estimated to reach a record 27,000 tons, which is an 84 per cent increase over the previous year. The estimated record yield this year is due to the alternate fruit-bearing “on and off seasons” and less infestation by the olive fruit fly during the current season.
Recent statements by both Israeli and Palestinian officials have called into question the 25-year old division of the West Bank into Areas A, B & C, established as part of the 1990s Oslo Accords. On the one hand, Israel’s Prime Minister declared his intention, if re-elected, to “apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea” as a first step to the formal annexation of all Israeli settlements in Area C. On the other hand, Palestine’s Prime Minister stated that the A, B & C division is no longer valid and issued a directive to expand Palestinian master planning in Area C. It still remains unclear if these announcements will be implemented and what the humanitarian impact would be.
Aziz, is a 25 years old Palestinian from Khirbet ar Ras al Ahmar, a small Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley. Over the past six years, Aziz has experienced four demolitions by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA). In February 2019, the ICA demolished seven structures belonging to Aziz, including the tents in which his family resides and shelters for his livestock. Rendered homeless, Aziz, his mother, brother and two sisters were forced to seek refuge in Tammum town (Tubas governorate) for a period of two weeks and leave his livestock behind, exposed to the harsh winter conditions.
For Sahar Al Nabaheen, the lack of access to regular, high-quality family planning information and services has all but defined her life. At 31, she lives with her husband and their six children in Al Bureij Camp, Middle Area Gaza. Three of Sahar’s pregnancies were unplanned due to a lack of available contraceptives. With her and her husband unable to find work, her family of eight are living on no income.