July 2019 recorded nearly 20,000 exits of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, a four-year high. Almost two-thirds of these exits were by people carrying ‘traders’ permits, although many were reported to be labourers employed in Israel, whose entry has been officially banned since 2006. Also in July, the number of entries and exits to and from Gaza via the Rafah Crossing with Egypt (over 18,000) was the highest since 2014. Finally, almost 800 trucks of goods entered Gaza from Egypt through the Salah ad Din gate during the month, the largest figure recorded since this gate began operating in early 2018.
The increase in electricity supply in the Gaza Strip since October 2018 has improved the delivery of water and sanitation services, while reducing expenditure on fuel for back-up generators for households and businesses. This increase has also reduced the need for the emergency fuel provided by the UN to avert the collapse of key service providers.
In Gaza, severe limb injuries caused by live ammunition have created a substantial burden on the already overstrained health system. Between 30 March 2018 and 31 July 2019, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition by Israeli forces during the “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations along the fence between Gaza and Israel. According to the oPt Health Cluster, 87 per cent of these are limb injuries, with injuries to the abdomen and pelvis accounting for approximately five per cent.
Between June and August 2019, there was a sharp increase in violent clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the Al ‘Isawiya neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. As of 21 August, these clashes have resulted in the killing of one Palestinian and the injury of at least 137, a significant increase compared to previous periods. Four Israeli policemen were also injured. During this period, OCHA recorded the arrest of 218 residents, including 53 children, roughly the same as in previous periods, while media reports estimated this figure at over 300. The daily life of the over 18,000 Palestinians living in Al ‘Isawiya has been severely disrupted, with a particularly negative impact on children and on commercial activities.
On 31 August, a Palestinian died of wounds he sustained from live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in a ‘Great March of Return’ (GMR) demonstration held the previous day, near Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza. During the reporting period, 483 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces in the GMR protests, of whom 236 were hospitalized, including 96 children; 99 people were shot with live ammunition. Israeli sources reported that a number of Molotov cocktails and explosive devices were thrown at the Israeli forces. One Israeli soldier was injured.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip have undermined the living conditions of about two million Palestinians. Many of the restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza, the imposition of a blockade and the closure of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt. These restrictions limit access to livelihoods, essential basic services and housing, disrupt family life, and undermine people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future. In recent months, OCHA has witnessed some easing of restrictions such as opening Kerem Shalom crossing on Friday for the entry of Qatari-funded fuel for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) and an increase in the number of permits issued to business people.
Since the 30 March 2018, the Gaza Strip has witnessed a significant increase in Palestiniain casualties resulting from the start of the Great March of Return demonstrations. In addition other activities along Israel’s perimeter fence have resulted in increased levels of casualties. This snapshot captures the number of casualties since the start of the Great March of Return on 30 March 2018. The large number of casualties of unarmed Palestinians, the use of live-ammunition and the imapct of tear gas canisters all raise concerns of excessive use of force. Exposure of children to violence and the lack of protection for medical personnel are additional concerns.
The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents. This crisis has been driven by over 12 years of an Israeli blockade and an unsolved internal Palestinian divide, exacerbated since March 2018 by the massive increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence, as well as limited escalations in hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups. The following indicators were identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to monitor specific aspects of the the crisis, trigger humanitarian action and prevent further deterioration.
An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story: Sou’ad and Ali are a Palestinian couple from Tall As Sultan refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, who struggle to provide adequate living conditions for their eight children. Until recently, their home was overcrowded and allowed no privacy, as most rooms, including the bathroom, were only separated by curtains. It also had only limited access to water and electricity, making life especially difficult during extreme weather conditions. In 2017, their eight-year-old daughter, Nour, had an accident that left her with severe back injuries that require special care, making the family’s life even tougher.
Nine Palestinians, all reportedly armed, were killed in a series of armed clashes with Israeli forces on both sides of the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel. Two separate incidents on 1 and 11 August, involving exchanges of fire, resulted in the killing of two Palestinians and the injury of three Israeli soldiers. Another four Palestinians were killed on 10 August, east of Deir al Balah, during an armed clash with Israeli forces positioned at the fence. On 17 August, Israeli forces opened fire from the air at a group of Palestinians, some of whom were reportedly armed and who were approaching the fence, north of Beit Lahiya, killing three and injuring two. In a number of additional incidents, Israeli forces arrested four Palestinians who breached the fence and entered Israel.