Ongoing electricity outages of 18-20 hours a day across the Gaza Strip throughout September and October continue to undermine the provision of basic services. In the water, sanitation and hygiene sector (WASH), sustained efforts by humanitarian agencies to provide 154 critical facilities with emergency fuel to run backup generators resulted in a limited improvement in some key indicators during September compared with previous months. There was a modest increase in the quantity of piped water supplied to households and in the functioning of desalination plants, plus a slight decline in the contamination levels of sewage discharged to the sea. Nevertheless, September indicators remain well below the already poor standards recorded during the first quarter of 2017.
The seizure of privately owned Palestinian land to establish and expand Israeli settlements has been a common phenomenon from the beginning of the Israeli occupation. In recent years, these actions have been conducted primarily by Israeli settlers without an official permit or authorization, but often with the acquiescence and active support of the Israeli authorities. The resulting loss of property and sources of livelihood, restricted access to services, and a range of protection threats have triggered demand for assistance and protection measures by the humanitarian community.
In October, legal cases filed with the Israeli HCJ in relation to four Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley ruled in favour of demolitions due to lack of building permits, which are rarely granted by the Israeli authorities for Palestinians. Consequently, more than 200 structures, 26 per cent of which were donor-funded, in the communities of Makhul, Humsa al-Baqai’a, al Farisiya-Ihmayyer and al Farisiya-Nabe al Ghazal are under threat of demolition. An estimated 171 people, over 50 per cent of whom are children, are at imminent risk of displacement. Demolitions or the threat of demolitions, along with discriminatory planning policies that make it near impossible for Palestinian residents of Area C to obtain authorization for construction, are among the Israeli policies identified by the Secretary-General as generating a coercive environment that puts pressure on Palestinians to leave their communities and creates a risk of forcible transfer.
Driven by ongoing electricity outages of 18-20 hours a day, an unresolved salary crisis in the public sector, and a blockade restricting the movement of people and goods, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remains extremely precarious.
People with disabilities and special needs have been disproportionately affected by the deterioration in living conditions in the Gaza Strip since March 2017. This situation is driven by a worsening energy crisis, which has resulted in outages of 18-20 hours a day, and an exacerbation of the salary crisis in the public sector, both of which are linked to an escalation in internal Palestinian divisions.1 In the midst of this crisis, Gaza’s unemployment rate reached 44 per cent in the second quarter of 2017 (April-June), up from 41.1 per cent in the previous quarter and 41.7 per cent in the same period of 2016.
The volume of people allowed to move in and out of Gaza has declined further since the beginning of 2017 in comparison with the previous two years, particularly via the Israeli-controlled crossing (Erez). Movement via Rafah, the Egyptian controlled crossing, also remains at extremely low levels. This has exacerbated the isolation of Gaza from the remainder of the oPt and the outside world, further limiting access to medical treatment unavailable in Gaza, to higher education, to family and social life, and to employment and economic opportunities. The tightening of restrictions in recent months has also obstructed the movement of national staff employed by the UN and international NGOs and impeded humanitarian operations.
A new fence installed by the Israeli authorities around two Palestinian neighbourhoods in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), As Salaymeh and Gheith, further separates up to 1,800 Palestinians from the rest of the city. This is in addition to the recent reinforcement (including the installment of turnstiles) of two pre-existing checkpoints controlling access to the area where the new fence was installed. These developments disrupt the livelihoods and family life of Palestinians living in the two neighbourhoods and limit access to basic services like health and education.
The targeting of key service infrastructure in already vulnerable communities in Area C in recent months has exacerbated the coercive environment and places residents at risk of forcible transfer. In August, on the eve of the new school year, the Israeli authorities requisitioned nine educational-related structures serving 170 children in three such communities.
Many Palestinians in East Jerusalem are subject to a coercive environment due to a range of Israeli policies, including home demolitions and forced evictions, highlighted in this month’s Bulletin. The hardship generated by this environment is illustrated by the case of the Shamasneh family, who have lived in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since 1964, and were forcibly evicted from their home on 5 September, following a protracted legal battle. As has occurred in other evictions, the home was immediately handed over to Israeli settlers. This is the first such eviction in Sheikh Jarrah since 2009. The advancement of four Israeli settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah would, if approved, lead to the eviction of over 70 additional Palestinian residents, and likely result in restrictions and tensions that will undermine the living conditions of Palestinian residents of the area.
The severity of electricity outages in the Gaza Strip continued in August, ranging from 18 to 20 hours a day. This had a detrimental impact on the availability of essential services and undermined Gaza’s already fragile economy.