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 January 1997, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron. In the agreement, Israel handed over control of 80 per cent of Hebron city (18 km² known as H1) to the Palestinian Authority, while keeping full control over the remaining 20 per cent (known as H2). H2 includes four Israeli settlement compounds, home to a few hundred Israeli settlers and a population of over 40,000 Palestinians.
Flash Update: In the aftermath of the killing of a Hamas member on 24 March in Gaza City by unknown assailants, the Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza are imposing new access restrictions, citing security reasons, which are negatively impacting already vulnerable sectors in Gaza. These restrictions are taking place before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced.
In the Gaza Strip more than 95 per cent of the water extracted from the aquifer lying underneath it is unfit for human consumption. This stems mainly from long-standing over-extraction, compounded by infiltration of raw sewage and seawater. Chloride and nitrate levels in the water extracted in most areas exceed the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for potable water by up to eight times. As Gaza’s population continues to grow, a 2012 UN report predicted that water demand in Gaza would increase by 60 per cent by 2020, while damage to the aquifer may become irreversible.
As part of the “policy of separation” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities prohibit the passage of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. Exceptions are made for certain categories - principally businesspeople, medical patients and their companions, employees of international organizations and specific humanitarian cases - who are eligible for exit permits, subject to security checks. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the Rafah Crossing since October 2014 and the inability of the Government of National Consensus to assume control over of the Palestinian side of the crossings, due to the ongoing internal divide.
The main export/transfer season for Gaza’s agricultural produce began in December. The volume of produce leaving Gaza has risen since late 2014, following the easing of Israeli restrictions on the exit of goods to markets in the West Bank and Israel. Revenues in 2016 (up to 8 December) totaled $11.9 million, an increase of almost 80 per cent compared with 2015 ($6.7 million) and more than five times higher than 2014 revenues ($2.2 million). Despite this improvement, 2016 revenues are about half of those recorded in 2007 when the blockade was imposed.
2016 trends affecting the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory: Preliminary analysis of data collected by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates that, during 2016 (until 28 December), the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 1,593 Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of another 7,101. These are the highest West Bank demolition and displacement figures at least since OCHA started recording them in 2009. The vast majority of these structures were destroyed or seized for lack of Israeli-issued building permits.