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.
In East Jerusalem, as in Area C of the West Bank, a restrictive planning regime applied by Israel makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, impeding the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods. Only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built up, while 35 per cent has been allocated for Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
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.