“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.
Since early 2018, citing security concerns, the Israeli authorities, and to a lesser extent Hamas, have imposed various measures which further tightened restrictions on the movement of humanitarian staff in and out of Gaza. Combined, these procedures have increased uncertainty, delays and logistic challenges. The UN continues to conduct negotiations with all relevant actors in Israel and Gaza to alleviate these restrictions.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has left the H2 area of Hebron city following the Israeli government’s decision not to renew its mandate beyond 31 January 2019. Combined with intensified harassment and restrictions against residents and the remaining protective presence actors in the area, this increases the protection risks faced by the population, particularly schoolchildren. In his remarks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed regret at Israel’s decision not to renew TIPH’s mandate. He expressed the hope that an agreement can be reached to “preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement”.
Attempts to delegitimize humanitarian and human rights organizations operating in the oPt, particularly NGOs, have been on the rise in recent years. This has a negative impact on the ability of these organisations to deliver assistance and advocate on behalf of Palestinian rights. The situation is further compounded by longstanding access restrictions imposed on humanitarian staff and operations, restrictive legislation and attacks on human rights defenders. The shrinking of the operational space available for humanitarian work as a result of these pressures has contributed to the reduction of the 2019 humanitarian appeal for the oPt.
Sunday, 19 August, marks World Humanitarian Day, an annual occasion dedicated by the United Nations General Assembly to raising public awareness of the millions of people who risk their lives in order to provide food, water and other assistance to people in desperate need in conflicts, in natural disasters and other emergencies. This year, humanitarians around the world call for greater protection of civilians, humanitarians and health workers in conflict zones.
In recent months, citing security concerns, the Israeli authorities, and to a lesser extent Hamas, have tightened restrictions on the movement of Palestinian humanitarian staff out of Gaza. Measures by the Israeli authorities include an increase in the processing time for exit permits, a rise in denials and one-year bans, restrictions on the type of items allowed to be taken out of Gaza, and new crossing procedures at the vehicle terminal. The Hamas authorities have established a new registration point at the entrance to Gaza. These measures have increased uncertainty, delays and logistical impediments, and have a negative impact on humanitarian operations. The UN continues to conduct negotiations with all relevant actors in Israel and Gaza to alleviate these challenges.