Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the occupied Palestinian territory through a combination of physical obstacles, including the Barrier and checkpoints, bureaucratic constraints, such as permit requirements, and the designation of areas as restricted or closed. This multi-layered system impacts the flow of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the outside world, including the West Bank; into farming and fishing areas within Gaza; and within the West Bank, in particular into East Jerusalem, in areas isolated by the Barrier, ‘firing zones’, the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), and land around or within Israeli settlements. Combined, these restrictions impede access to services and resources, disrupt family and social life, undermine livelihoods and compound the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory.
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.
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.
We are following with sadness today the Israeli authorities’ destruction of homes in the Palestinian community of Sur Bahir. Initial information emerging from the community indicates that hundreds of Israeli forces entered the community this morning and have demolished a number of residential buildings, including inhabited homes, located in Areas A, B and C of the West Bank on the East Jerusalem side of the Barrier. The large-scale operation began in the early hours of this morning while it was still dark, forcing families out of their homes, and causing great distress among residents. Among those forcibly displaced or otherwise impacted are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory.
As in previous years, UNOCHA and humanitarian partners monitored the checkpoints controlling access into East Jerusalem and Hebron during the holy month of Ramadan (5 May- 4 June 2019) to identify assess ease of access for Friday prayers, identify potential protection risks and possible mitigation measures for the multitudes seeks to cross the checkpoints. Particular attention is given to the most vulnerable amongst those seeking access including children, pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly. This monitoring also informs UNOCHA’s analysis of broader access trends. On the four Fridays of Ramadan 2019, monitoring teams comprising staff members from UNOCHA, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and the United Nations’ Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) observed access at permitted entry points into Jerusalem (Qalandiya, Gilo/Bethlehem and Zaytoun) and access into the Old City of Jerusalem. In addition, monitoring teams were stationed at the entrance of the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in the H2 area of Hebron.
Houses to be demolished in Sur Bahir because of proximity to the Barrier: Sur Bahir (pop. 24,000) is a Palestinian neighbourhood in the south east of Jerusalem. Most of Sur Bahir is located within the unilaterally-annexed East Jerusalem municipal area, but the community reports that they own some 4,000 dunums of land in Area A and B and C, as designated under the Oslo Accords. Uniquely, the Barrier has been routed around Sur Bahir so that parts of Area A, B and C fall on the ‘Jerusalem’ side. The residents’ local committee estimates that some 6,000 people, or a quarter of the population, currently live in these Oslo-defined areas. Despite this, these areas have not been incorporated within the municipal boundary, although they are now physically separated from the remainder of the West Bank. In practice, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is unable to access or deliver services to Area A and B in Sur Bahir, although they still issue building permits in these areas, as they have been authorized to do under the Oslo Accords.
On the eve of the one-year mark of the start of the “Great March of Return” demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, calls on all parties to avoid further deterioration.