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.”
As reported in last month’s Bulletin, some 60 homes and other structures were demolished in East Jerusalem in April, due to lack of building permits. This is the highest number in a single month since OCHA began to systematically record demolitions in 2009. More people have already been displaced in East Jerusalem in the first four months of 2019 than in all of 2018. Although no demolitions occurred in East Jerusalem in May, it has been the practice of the Israeli authorities to refrain from conducting demolitions during the month of Ramadan and demolitions are expected to resume after the Eid holiday in June.
Najwa Hamad is a 39-year-old resident of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. Since she and her husband are unemployed, the family does not have a fixed income and relies on financial assistance from various sources, including their extended family.
Early May witnessed the most serious outbreak of hostilities in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel since the 2014 conflict, and the fifth recorded in the past year. This followed the wounding of two Israeli soldiers by a sniper during the weekly Friday “Great March of Return” protests on 3 May, and the Israeli Air Force’s targeting of a Hamas post, which killed two Hamas members. Over the following days, Israeli forces struck around 320 targets in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups fired nearly 700 rockets at Israel. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed, including militants, four women and two children, and about 154 were injured, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. Four Israeli civilians were killed and dozens wounded.
Between 25 and 27 March, the Gaza Strip and southern Israel witnessed one of the most significant escalations of hostilities since 2014, up to that point, after a rocket was fired from Gaza, severely damaging a house in central Israel, injuring seven Israelis. Following the incident, Israeli air force struck multiple locations across Gaza while Palestinian armed groups fired dozens of projectiles towards southern Israel.
About 68 per cent of households in Gaza experience severe or moderate levels of food insecurity, and the unemployment rate increased from 44 per cent in 2017 to 52 per cent in 2018. In an increasingly destabilized economy and weakened social fabric, families’ resilience capacities are increasingly eroded, and the vulnerability of certain groups, particularly children, is exacerbated. Child labour, including children engaging in hazardous occupations, has become a commonly used mechanism to alleviate poverty and secure daily expenses.