This month witnessed one of the most significant escalations of hostilities in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel since 2014, after a rocket was fired from Gaza on 25 March, severely damaging a house in central Israel and injuring seven Israelis. Following the incident, the Israeli Air Force struck multiple locations across Gaza, injuring two and displacing sixteen families, while Palestinian armed groups fired dozens of projectiles towards southern Israel, reportedly causing damage. The Israeli authorities also closed the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings, allowing only movement of urgent humanitarian cases, and prohibited all fishing along the coast. A relative calm appears to be holding since 27 March.
The demolition of residential, livelihood and service infrastructure, on the grounds of a lack of Israeli-issued permits, has continued throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. In the first three months of 2019, a total of 136 Palestinian structures were demolished in the West Bank, of which 48 were in East Jerusalem and 88 in Area C, displacing 218 people, including 97 children and 57 women.
Since 30 March 2018, thousands of Palestinians have been participating in the weekly “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations near the perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, calling for the Palestinian right of return and the ending of the Israeli blockade. The demonstrations were originally scheduled to last up to 15 May, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the 1948 Nakba, but have continued on a weekly basis, and also now include occasional demonstrations on the beach next to the perimeter fence in northern Gaza in addition to night activities near the fence. Protection Cluster partners have repeatedly indicated that under international law, all Palestinians, including children, have the right to freedom of expression and demonstration.
In February, the Israeli government implemented a law enacted in 2018 to withhold USD 140 million in Palestinian tax revenue transfers. According to the Israeli authorities, this is equivalent to the sum paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the families of Palestinians convicted of security-related offenses in Israeli courts. In response, the PA announced that it would refuse to accept any of the customs duties and other taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA and transferred to it monthly: these allocations account for approximately 65 per cent of the PA’s budget.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has left the H2 area of Hebron city following the Israeli government’s decision not to renew its mandate beyond 31 January 2019. Combined with intensified harassment and restrictions against residents and the remaining protective presence actors in the area, this increases the protection risks faced by the population, particularly schoolchildren. In his remarks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed regret at Israel’s decision not to renew TIPH’s mandate. He expressed the hope that an agreement can be reached to “preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement”.
Recent findings indicate a significant decline in the number of permits issued by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian farmers and workers to access their land in the West Bank behind the Barrier. According to official data obtained by the Israeli organization HaMoked, the approval rate for permits for landowners fell from 76 per cent of applications in 2014 to 28 per cent in 2018 (up to 25 November). Permits issued to agricultural workers declined from 70 per cent and 50 per cent of applications in the same period
In February 2018 the UN agreed with the Israeli government and the PA to undertake a joint review of the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) to improve its functionality, transparency and predictability. In consultation with a variety of stakeholders, the parties introduced various improvements to the GRM in January 2019 and these are expected to facilitate the implementation of humanitarian and development projects.
An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story: Khaled and Hajar are married and live in the Palestinian Bedouin community of Abu Nuwwar, in the central West Bank. They have seven children, including five from Khaled’s first marriage and two of their own. Khaled’s first wife passed away, and so did his daughter, who had a rare, hereditary medical condition. Two other children, Yusuf and Ibrahim, suffer from the same illness, which requires close care, preventing the father from committing to one job.
An oPt Humanitarian Fund Success Story: Ibtisam is a 46-year-old mother of two from Deir al Balah in the Gaza Strip. Until recently, she was struggling to care for her family, including her husband who lives with a disability, and to manage the family’s home, which needed repair and rehabilitation
The humanitarian vulnerability of Palestinians, as a result of Israeli policies and practices regarding settlements, was exacerbated by a number of developments during January. On 26 January, Israeli settlers, reportedly from the settlement outpost of Adei-Ad, raided Al Mughayyir village near Ramallah, where they shot and killed a 38-year-old Palestinian man, and injured another nine. Israeli authorities have opened a criminal investigation of the case. In recent years, Al Mughayyir (some 3,000 residents) has been the target of systematic attacks and harassment from nearby settlements outposts, which have undermined the safety and livelihoods of the Palestinian residents. Although the approximately 100 settlements outposts throughout the West Bank have been established without official Israeli authorization or building permits, in December 2018, the government endorsed a bill to advance the retroactive “legalization” of 66 of these settlements (including Adei-Ad) within two years; in the interim period they would be provided with funding and services, alongside a freezing in the implementation of demolition orders.