An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story: Ahmed Badawi is a 48-year-old farmer, who provides for his wife and nine children. The family owns about two acres of land, located 400 metres from Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza, in the Ash Shuja’iyeh of the Gaza Strip. For many years, Israel has restricted the access of Palestinians to areas near the fence, undermining farming. In addition, since 30 March 2018, Palestinians have been demonstrating there, on an almost-weekly basis, as part of the ‘Great March of Return’ (GMR), causing damage to crops in the process.
July 2019 recorded nearly 20,000 exits of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, a four-year high. Almost two-thirds of these exits were by people carrying ‘traders’ permits, although many were reported to be labourers employed in Israel, whose entry has been officially banned since 2006. Also in July, the number of entries and exits to and from Gaza via the Rafah Crossing with Egypt (over 18,000) was the highest since 2014. Finally, almost 800 trucks of goods entered Gaza from Egypt through the Salah ad Din gate during the month, the largest figure recorded since this gate began operating in early 2018.
The increase in electricity supply in the Gaza Strip since October 2018 has improved the delivery of water and sanitation services, while reducing expenditure on fuel for back-up generators for households and businesses. This increase has also reduced the need for the emergency fuel provided by the UN to avert the collapse of key service providers.
In Gaza, severe limb injuries caused by live ammunition have created a substantial burden on the already overstrained health system. Between 30 March 2018 and 31 July 2019, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition by Israeli forces during the “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations along the fence between Gaza and Israel. According to the oPt Health Cluster, 87 per cent of these are limb injuries, with injuries to the abdomen and pelvis accounting for approximately five per cent.
Between June and August 2019, there was a sharp increase in violent clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the Al ‘Isawiya neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. As of 21 August, these clashes have resulted in the killing of one Palestinian and the injury of at least 137, a significant increase compared to previous periods. Four Israeli policemen were also injured. During this period, OCHA recorded the arrest of 218 residents, including 53 children, roughly the same as in previous periods, while media reports estimated this figure at over 300. The daily life of the over 18,000 Palestinians living in Al ‘Isawiya has been severely disrupted, with a particularly negative impact on children and on commercial activities.
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.