Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of about two million Palestinians in that area. Many of the restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a blockade, including restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and Egypt. These restrictions continue to reduce access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupt family life, and undermine people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future.
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 11 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. The following indicators were identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to monitor the crisis, trigger humanitarian action and prevent further deterioration.
Two Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests in the Gaza Strip, another two Palestinians died of wounds sustained previously, and 530 were injured. The two boys (14 and 17-years-old) were shot with live ammunition and killed on Friday, 8 February in two incidents near the fence. According to human rights groups, both incidents occurred between 60-250 meters from the fence and the two boys posed no threat to Israeli forces. On the same day, according to Israeli sources, Palestinians threw explosive devices at Israeli forces and attempted to breach the fence into Israel, resulting in no Israeli injuries. The other two fatalities, both men, succumbed to wounds sustained in previous demonstrations on 18 and 29 January, including a demonstration at the beach held to protest the naval blockade; one of the fatalities was shot with live ammunition and the other one was struck by a tear-gas canister. These bring the number of Palestinian fatalities sustained during the Gaza protests since March 2018 to 263, including 49 children. Of those injured during the reporting period, 248 were hospitalized, including 64 people hit by live ammunition; the remainder were treated in the field, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
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.
Recent developments in East Jerusalem place an extended Palestinian refugee family from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood at risk of imminent forced eviction, following a lengthy legal struggle with an Israeli settler organization. Thirty-two members of the Sabbagh family currently reside in the family home, including six children; at least 19 additional people would be affected by the loss of their family home. This eviction may amount to a forcible transfer, which is a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention. Forced evictions contrary to international law also violate the right to adequate housing and the right to privacy, and may be incompatible with other human rights.
In a positive development, as of 2 January 2019, for the first time since 2000, Israel has partially expanded the fishing limits up to 12 nautical miles (NM) in the middle area off the Gaza coast. However, access along the northern and southern areas continue to be restricted by Israel, citing security concerns, to six nautical miles (NM), well below the 20 NM agreed under the Oslo Accords. In addition to access restrictions, Palestinian fishers remain subject to significant protection concerns, with the number of fisher injuries and shooting incidents rising significantly in 2018.
Three Palestinians, including a child, were shot and killed by Israeli forces in three separate incidents in the West Bank. On 21 January, soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man at the Huwwara checkpoint (Nablus), reportedly after he attempted to stab a soldier; his body is still being withheld by Israeli forces. On 25 January, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed, and another one injured, near Silwad village (Ramallah). According to Israeli sources the boys were throwing stones at Israeli vehicles when shot, while Palestinian sources indicated that they were playing. The same day, in East Jerusalem, the Israeli police opened fire and killed the driver of a vehicle suspected as stolen, reportedly after the driver, a 37-year old Palestinian man, did not abide by an order to stop. These incidents bring to 11 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the start of December 2018.
East Jerusalem/Ramallah, 30 January 2019 - “As the second school term resumes in the State of Palestine, we remain deeply concerned by the high number of reported incidents of interference in or near schools in the West Bank since the beginning of the school year. These incidents are impacting children’s safe access to education. Incidents of interference in schools by Israeli Forces, demolitions, threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints, and the violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions, are impacting access to a safe learning environment and the right to quality education for thousands of Palestinian children.
An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story: Ahmad, a 14-year-old Palestinian, was hit by live ammunition at Israel’s perimeter fence surrounding Gaza during one of the “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations in June 2018. He was injured in his right leg, close to the knee, and as a result he experienced difficulties in performing daily tasks, including walking and dressing by himself, and suffered depression. “I cried during the nights, because I wasn’t able to play with my friends,” he recalls.