Last month’s Bulletin featured an article highlighting the risk of multiple demolitions in Sur Bahir, a Palestinian neighbourhood mainly located within the annexed municipal area of East Jerusalem. On 22 July, in a major operation, the Israeli authorities deployed hundreds of security forces into the community to carry out the demolitions, destroying ten structures, including nine residential buildings, of which three were inhabited. This resulted in the displacement of four families, including 14 children, and property losses sustained by dozens of others, who had purchased apartments in the buildings.
It is estimated that 199 Palestinian households currently have eviction cases filed against them, the majority initiated by settler organizations, placing 877 people, including 391 children, at risk of displacement. Evictions can have a grave physical, social, economic and emotional impact on the affected families.
Since early 2018, citing security concerns, the Israeli authorities, and to a lesser extent Hamas, have imposed various measures which further tightened restrictions on the movement of humanitarian staff in and out of Gaza. Combined, these procedures have increased uncertainty, delays and logistic challenges. The UN continues to conduct negotiations with all relevant actors in Israel and Gaza to alleviate these restrictions.
UNRWA, in partnership with UNICEF and with the support of the European Union, has concluded the “Keeping Kids Active” (KKA) project in Gaza. Over five weeks, from 29 June to 1 August, KKA reached approximately 100,000 children throughout Gaza, providing recreational activities, psychosocial assistance, and referrals to more specialized mental health services, where needed.
The informal ceasefire understanding which concluded the escalation of hostilities in early May is still largely holding. June witnessed some easing of restrictions – the extension of the fishing zone, allocation of more business permits, disbursement of some of the Qatari-funded aid – which go some way to alleviating the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
As in previous years, UNOCHA and humanitarian partners monitored the checkpoints controlling access into East Jerusalem and Hebron during the holy month of Ramadan (5 May- 4 June 2019) to identify assess ease of access for Friday prayers, identify potential protection risks and possible mitigation measures for the multitudes seeks to cross the checkpoints. Particular attention is given to the most vulnerable amongst those seeking access including children, pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly. This monitoring also informs UNOCHA’s analysis of broader access trends. On the four Fridays of Ramadan 2019, monitoring teams comprising staff members from UNOCHA, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and the United Nations’ Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) observed access at permitted entry points into Jerusalem (Qalandiya, Gilo/Bethlehem and Zaytoun) and access into the Old City of Jerusalem. In addition, monitoring teams were stationed at the entrance of the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in the H2 area of Hebron.
For the past decade, the Gaza Strip has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit that has undermined already fragile living conditions. The situation deteriorated further after April 2017 due to disputes between the de facto authorities in Gaza and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been ongoing since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007. 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 the PA reducing payments for electricity in Gaza. Compounded by a halt in the electricity supply from Egypt due to malfunctioning and inability to repair the feeder lines, this triggered electricity blackouts of 20-22 hours a day. The power shortages had a severe impact on essential services such as health, water and sanitation services, and undermined Gaza’s fragile economy, particularly the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. During this period, the UN coordinated the delivery of donor-funded emergency fuel for generators to ensure the operation of some 250 critical health and WASH facilities.
Houses to be demolished in Sur Bahir because of proximity to the Barrier: Sur Bahir (pop. 24,000) is a Palestinian neighbourhood in the south east of Jerusalem. Most of Sur Bahir is located within the unilaterally-annexed East Jerusalem municipal area, but the community reports that they own some 4,000 dunums of land in Area A and B and C, as designated under the Oslo Accords. Uniquely, the Barrier has been routed around Sur Bahir so that parts of Area A, B and C fall on the ‘Jerusalem’ side. The residents’ local committee estimates that some 6,000 people, or a quarter of the population, currently live in these Oslo-defined areas. Despite this, these areas have not been incorporated within the municipal boundary, although they are now physically separated from the remainder of the West Bank. In practice, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is unable to access or deliver services to Area A and B in Sur Bahir, although they still issue building permits in these areas, as they have been authorized to do under the Oslo Accords.
Since late March 2018, thousands of Palestinians have participated in the weekly Great March of Return (GMR) demonstrations in the vicinity of Israel’s perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, calling for the Palestinian right of return and the ending of the Israeli blockade. The large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinian protestors, in particular the high number injured by live ammunition -in circumstances that did not appear to constitute an imminent threat of death or serious injury to Israeli soldiers behind the fence, has raised concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli forces. The first article in this month’s Bulletin examines the humanitarian impact of these injuries on the individuals themselves and the implications for the overstretched Gaza health system.
Years of blockade and other movement restrictions on people and materials, including medical resources, the deepening intra-Palestinian political divide, and a chronic energy crisis, have led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza health sector suffers from chronic shortages of certain equipment and supplies, including antibiotics and chemotherapy drug stocks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has also been a serious deterioration in the “social determinants of health”, with “water from the aquifer basically unfit for human consumption, sewage flows largely untreated into the Mediterranean and the economy is stifled.”