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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
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.
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.
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.
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.