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“Humanitarian space” refers to an operational environment that allows humanitarian actors to provide assistance and services according to humanitarian principles and in line with international humanitarian law. In the occupied Palestinian territory, humanitarian organizations face a range of obstacles from the Israeli authorities regarding the access of personnel and of materials needed for humanitarian projects, which hampers their ability to provide assistance and protection to Palestinians. These obstacles include physical and administrative restrictions on the access and movement of personnel, especially national employees, restrictions on the delivery of materials needed for humanitarian projects; and limitations on the implementation of projects that involve building, expanding or rehabilitating infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Area C of the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, humanitarian operations are also hampered by counter-terrorism legislation and the "no contact" policy adopted by many countries and donors, prohibiting contact with Hamas or any of the other armed groups, even on an operational level. The work of international NGOs have also been impeded by the de facto authorities.
Articles, statements and press releases
The Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, today called for the protection of Palestinians, particularly children and health workers, in the context of demonstrations taking place in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and for demonstrators to refrain from actions that prevent the functioning of the main entry point for humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip.
Humanitarian agencies operating in the Gaza Strip warned today that a prolonged closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza’s almost exclusive point for the entry of goods, may exacerbate the already dire situation of services and livelihoods.
I am deeply concerned about the significant reduction in funding for UNRWA, which is critical to the provision of humanitarian assistance in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Some 2.5 million Palestinians in this area, or about half of the population, need humanitarian aid, including 1.4 million Palestine refugees, who are among the most vulnerable groups in the oPt. The reduction is particularly worrying against the backdrop of an overall decline in humanitarian funding in the oPt in recent years.
The number of Palestinians allowed to move in and out of Gaza declined significantly in 2017 compared with 2016. At the Erez crossing, movement via Israel has been in decline since mid-2016. Palestinian access via Rafah, the Egyptian-controlled crossing, also declined during the year from an already extremely low level. As the internal Palestinian divide escalated, access for medical purposes was also restricted during most of 2017 by the PA Ministry of Health, which delayed or suspended payments for patients referred for medical treatment outside Gaza.
Israeli restrictions on the entry of national staff of aid organizations to and from the Gaza Strip have intensified during 2016. The denial rate for permit applications by national staff of UN agencies surged from four per cent in 2015 to 40 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 (see table). Available information indicates that the rate of denial for national staff of other humanitarian agencies has also risen.
As part of a ‘separation policy’ to separate West Bank Palestinians from Palestinians in Gaza, the Israeli authorities prohibit the passage of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. Exceptions are made for certain categories, principally businesspeople and traders, medical patients and their companions, and employees of international organizations issued with Israeli permits. During the easing of access restrictions following the 2014 hostilities, the number of Palestinians from exceptional categories crossing through Erez more than doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, numbers remain significantly lower than at the start of the second intifada in 2000, when some 26,000 Palestinians crossed Erez daily for wider purposes. In 2016, data for July show a 15 per cent decline in exits from Gaza versus the monthly average for the first half of the year, with a 27 per cent decline in the number of exits for businesspeople and traders.