Last month’s Humanitarian Bulletin warned that the Gaza Strip was on the brink of collapse. The key drivers identified then were the lack of progress in the implementation of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas; the unprecedented financial crisis facing UNRWA, one of the territory’s main service providers; and the risk that funding for the emergency fuel provided by the UN in Gaza would be exhausted by mid-February.
Supported by donors, the UN has been coordinating the delivery of emergency fuel to run back-up generators and vehicles in the Gaza Strip since 2013. This has ensured that a minimal level of life-saving health, water and sanitation services are maintained despite the severe energy crisis.
During the first two months of 2018, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized a total of 70 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank. On average, this is the same number of monthly demolitions recorded in 2017 (35), and around one-third of figures recorded in 2016 (91). Around 30 per cent of the structures targeted in 2018 were residential and 81 people were displaced. The remainder were livelihood-related or public structures, including two school classrooms. An assessment by humanitarian actors of the education sector indicates that 44 Palestinian schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are at risk of full or partial demolition or seizure due to the lack of an Israeli-issued building permit.
Since 28 January 2018, the three access roads into Hizma village have been totally or partially blocked to Palestinian traffic by the Israeli military, and remain so at the time of writing. Hizma is a Palestinian village of over 7000 residents in Jerusalem governorate. The bulk of its built-up area is in Area B, but small parts of the village lie in Area C or within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, separated from the rest of the city by the Barrier.
Recent weeks’ developments have brought the Gaza Strip to the brink of collapse. Firstly, UNRWA, which is one the main service providers and source of livelihood for about 1.3 million Palestine refugees in Gaza, is facing an unprecedented financial crisis. This has followed indications from the United States, the Agency’s main donor, that overall contributions to UNRWA in all its areas of operation in the Middle East in 2018 will fall far short of the more than $350 million it provided in 2017. UNRWA’s humanitarian interventions, which include food assistance to almost one million people in the Gaza Strip, are at particular risk. To date in 2018, none of released US funding has been provided to these projects and other donor contributions have not been sufficient to cover the gap. UNRWA’s projects constitute 53 per cent of the overall requirements for the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), the multi-agency strategy and funding appeal for the humanitarian community in the oPt.
Very few of the measures agreed in the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas on 12 October 2017 have been implemented to date and improvements in conditions in the Gaza Strip are extremely limited.
Following the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 6 December 2017, the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) experienced heightened tensions and violence, mainly Palestinian protests and clashes, which resulted in a significant rise in casualties versus previous months.
According to UN Women, gender-based violence (GBV) in the oPt has assumed a higher profile in recent years. In 2010 the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) undertook a survey which revealed that levels of domestic violence had declined in the West Bank compared with 2005, but had increased in the Gaza Strip. The rise in GBV in Gaza was attributed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation following the Israeli blockade imposed after the Hamas takeover in 2007, and the devastating impact of the ‘Cast Lead’ hostilities in December 2008-January 2009.
Since the announcement, on 6 December 2017, of the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, widespread demonstrations by Palestinians have resulted in clashes with Israeli forces across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). In the West Bank, as of 31 December, three Palestinians have been killed and 3,590 injured. The majority of injuries (almost 70 per cent) were due to tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment, followed by rubber bullets and live ammunition.
The number of Palestinians allowed to move in and out of Gaza declined significantly in 2017 compared with 2016. At the Erez crossing, movement via Israel has been in decline since mid-2016. Palestinian access via Rafah, the Egyptian-controlled crossing, also declined during the year from an already extremely low level. As the internal Palestinian divide escalated, access for medical purposes was also restricted during most of 2017 by the PA Ministry of Health, which delayed or suspended payments for patients referred for medical treatment outside Gaza.