The main article in this month’s Bulletin concerns the rehabilitation needs of the thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who have been seriously injured since 30 March in the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations along Israel’s perimeter fence. It is estimated that over 1,400 Palestinians may suffer from a long-term disability due to the severity of the injuries incurred. The Ministry of Health in Gaza is coordinating rehabilitation care for discharged patients, with the support of a variety of Health Cluster partners. This additional burden to the already fragile health system in Gaza is taking place against the backdrop of deteriorating living conditions and severe funding shortfalls for humanitarian agencies.
Although the number of casualties recorded during the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations in Gaza declined during June (see infographic), the health sector has continued to struggle with the cumulative caseload of serious injuries, particularly those requiring long-term rehabilitation.
The number of housing units in substandard conditions across the Gaza Strip increased dramatically since mid-2014 as a direct result of hostilities that took place that year. Nearly four years later, over a third of the homes that sustained some type of damage (some 59,000 out 171,000) are yet to be repaired.
In recent months, the Israeli authorities have passed or advanced new legislation that will significantly limit the ability of individual and human rights organizations to challenge the demolition or seizure of Palestinian properties in Area C and East Jerusalem.
In recent decades, Israeli settler organizations, with the support of the Israeli authorities, have taken control of properties within Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and established settlement compounds.
The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate. Gaza has been tense since 30 March, with Palestinians holding weekly demonstrations along Israel’s perimeter fence as part of the ‘Great March of Return’. As of 31 May, Israeli forces had killed 128 Palestinians, the vast majority during the demonstrations, and injured over 13,000, including more than 3,600 by live ammunition, raising serious concerns about excessive use of force.
In the wake of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations since 30 March, Gaza’s already overstretched health sector has been struggling to cope with the mass influx of casualties. This burden has exacerbated the long-term shortage of medicines and limited capacities of health facilities, driven by the huge electricity deficit and the ongoing salary crisis affecting government employees, among other reasons.
The findings of a Household Expenditure and Consumption Survey, released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in May, show a significant increase in poverty rates in the Gaza Strip: from 38.8 per cent in 2011 (the previous time poverty was measured) to 53 per cent by the end of 2017, which is the equivalent to around 1.01 million people, including over 400,000 children.6 This means that poverty increased by more than 14 percentage points in a period of six years.
In recent decades, Israeli settler organizations, with the support of the Israeli authorities, have taken control of properties within Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, and established a number of settlement compounds there. The majority of cases have been challenged unsuccessfully in Israeli courts. Settlements are illegal under international law.
Israeli settler violence against Palestinians has been on the rise since the beginning of 2017. Between January and April 2018, OCHA documented 84 incidents attributed to Israeli settlers resulting in Palestinian casualties (27 incidents) or in damage to Palestinian property (57 incidents). On a monthly average, this is the highest level of incidents recorded since the end of 2014 and represents a 50 and 162 per cent increase compared with 2017 and 2016, respectively (see chart). Israeli security officials have expressed concern over this trend and reportedly increased their presence in ‘friction areas’, particularly near the settlement of Yitzhar, in the northern West Bank.