Bulletin mensuel de la DDP - Vol.XXXIV, No. 5 - bulletin ComitÚ pour l’exercice des droits inaliÚnables du peuple palestinien, DDP (mai 2011) - publication de la DDP Franšais
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter
Thank you for the opportunity to report to you some initial impressions following my visits in the last week to Cairo and Amman, in furtherance of my mandate as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. My hope, during this and earlier missions, was to visit the occupied territory personally to assess the human rights situation of the Palestinian population living under occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
During this mission, I intended to also visit the occupied Gaza Strip, but was forced to cancel that visit due to a determination by the United Nations with respect to security situation in Gaza. I plan to visit Gaza later in 2011.
Despite my inability to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory during this trip, I sought to obtain an assessment of the human rights situation there through meetings with government officials, academics, civil society organizations, human rights defenders and United Nations agencies. I particularly focused on how the occupation, blockade and prolonged refugee status affect the basic human rights of children. I also examined the effects of the Gaza blockade on the mental and physical health and development of children in Gaza. What I found is that the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation as a result of the prolonged Israeli occupation disproportionately affects children.
Throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the situation with regard to the human rights of children remains dire. The policies of land confiscation, expansion of settlements, home demolitions and forced displacement of families, revocation of residency permits and restrictions on freedom of movement continue to have a greater impact on children. Children are particularly vulnerable to settlers’ violent attacks and harassment. In Gaza, the continued Israeli blockade has significantly affected the right of children to food, health and education. Psychological trauma from the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 continues to affect children disproportionately.
Since 2000, 1,335 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of Israeli military and settler presence in the occupied Palestinian territory. The arbitrary opening of fire by the Israeli military against Palestinian children is appalling. Since March 2010, Israeli soldiers along the border with Gaza have shot 17 children who were collecting building gravel in the so-called “buffer zone” in Gaza to support their families. Adults and children continue to do this dangerous work as the Israeli authorities refuse to allow the entry of construction material to enter into the Gaza Strip and there are few job opportunities available.
Despite its obligations under human rights and international humanitarian law, Israel continues to arbitrarily arrest, detain and abuse children. Israel holds 226 children in Israeli detention, including 45 of whom are between the ages of 12 and 15 years. Children continue to be arrested at night, at checkpoints or off the street. Upon arrest, children and their families are seldom informed of the charges against them. The number of arrests of children for throwing stones, particularly in the occupied East Jerusalem, has been on the rise. Children report having been were blindfolded, beaten or kicked at the time of arrest and put in the back of a military vehicle where they were subject to further physical and psychological abuse on the way to the interrogation and detention centre. The continued reporting of inhumane and degrading treatment, including sexual assault, of Palestinian children in detention is deplorable.
The impact of such inhumane and degrading treatment results in severe psychological trauma, depression, anxiety, and reduced academic achievement.
It is noteworthy that the perpetrators of these violations against Palestinian children are not held accountable for their actions.
Unlike Israeli juvenile offenders, Palestinian children are tried in the Juvenile Military Court and convicted on the basis of confessions obtained through coercion and ill-treatment. Palestinian children under 16 years of age who are detained in Israeli jails, unlike their Israeli counterparts, are deprived of sufficient access to education in detention. This divergence in the legal regimes for juvenile justice is indicative of the widespread and systematic institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians, which is reminiscent of South African apartheid.
Palestinian children continue to be deprived of their right to education. Existing schools are massively inadequate for the growing needs of students. The planning restrictions in place in the West Bank, along with extreme difficulties that make it impossible to obtain permits to build new schools force the communities to build classrooms that run the risk of being demolished. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in Gaza 95 per cent of the agency’s schools in Gaza are running double shifts; 126 school buildings are being used for 238 separate “schools”. At least 100 new schools are needed just this year, but Israel’s blockade of Gaza prevents such building by severely limiting the entry of construction material: on average, of only 230 truckloads of goods enter Gaza each day, for a population of 1.5 million, which is far less than is needed. Building just one new school requires 220 truckloads of construction materials. As a result of this situation, UNRWA reported a shortage of 40,000 classrooms at the beginning of the 2010/2011 school year. Children continued to have their access to education impeded by restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the occupied territory including at the wall and its gate, and by the permit regime at checkpoints. Furthermore, Israeli settlers continue to attack, harass and intimidate children on their way to and from school.
The Bedouin herding families living in Area C of the West Bank and their children are particularly vulnerable.
Most of these livestock-dependent families have been forced into extreme poverty, are denied access to land for herding, water, food and health services, and are unable to provide for the education of their children. The fact that families cannot afford to send all their children to school is a problem that has a greater impact on girls. Israeli policies have denied Palestinians a sustainable livelihood and appear designed to forcibly relocate them. Violent physical and psychological attacks by illegal Israeli settlers further those policies.
I leave Jordan with a strong sense that the international community should spare no effort in compelling Israel to comply with its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, end this prolonged and illegal occupation and fully respect the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. This visit focused upon the plight of Palestinian children experiencing the weight of an oppressive occupation, but it should be understood that the concern of my mandate extends to the full range of human rights that are the inalienable entitlement of those living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Secretary-General has sent the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, to Cairo for the marking tomorrow of the Palestinian unity agreement. Bearing in mind Security Council resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009), the Secretary-General has continually supported efforts for unity and the work of Egypt and President Abbas in this regard. He wishes to see unity in the framework of the positions of the Quartet and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab Peace Initiative. The Secretary-General therefore strongly appeals to all Palestinian parties to commit to these principles.
The Secretary-General is pleased that United Nations Messenger for Peace Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestra for Gaza, comprising musicians from leading European orchestras performed a concert of works by Mozart today in Gaza. This cultural event, co-hosted by Palestinian NGOs, was attended by a wide range of Gazan civil society representatives and students. Special Coordinator Robert Serry opened the concert, describing it a “gesture of artistry, humanity, friendship and harmony”. UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi welcomed Mr. Barenboim and the Orchestra at the Rafah crossing and was also present at the concert.
The Secretary-General appreciates the efforts of Daniel Barenboim and the many musicians who gave their time and talent to bring music to Gaza.
A. General conclusion
75. The Committee, in the course of its work since the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution 13/9, has monitored and assessed the different proceedings undertaken by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian side on the basis of available public information, contributions from government authorities, NGOs and other actors, and accounts from victims and witnesses. It considers that the analysis presented in the present report completes and concludes its examination of the issues it was requested to address in resolution 13/9.
76. Although the Committee was able to access official information detailing the progress of some investigations by the Israeli authorities since September 2010, it relied largely on media reports and other secondary sources to inform its deliberations. The Israeli authorities’ refusal to allow the Committee access to Israel and the West Bank, and access to Gaza through Israel, significantly constrained the Committee’s ability to engage with key interlocutors.
77. That said, the Committee finds that Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza reported by the United Nations Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and others. Given the scale of this undertaking, it is unsurprising that in 2011, much remains to be accomplished. The Committee is able to report that, to the best of its knowledge, 19 investigations into the serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law reported by the Fact-Finding Mission have been completed by the Israeli authorities with findings that no violations were committed. Two inquiries were discontinued for different reasons. Three investigations led to disciplinary action. Six investigations reportedly remain open, including one in which criminal charges have been brought against an Israeli soldier. The status of possible investigations into six additional incidents remains unclear.
78. Furthermore, Israel has launched 14 investigations into incidents related to alleged violations in the West Bank. Of those, two criminal indictments have been filed, six investigations are ongoing and six cases were closed without charges. The Committee received no information concerning other investigations of alleged violations committed in the West Bank, nor of investigations related to persons detained in Israel.
79. The Committee reiterates the conclusion of its previous report that there is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead.
80. However, the Committee notes the work of the Turkel Commission and its probing of some decisions and policies adopted by high-level officials in Israel. The Committee concludes that a public commission — which includes international participants — constitutes one of the mechanisms that Israel could use to assess high-level operational and legal decisions concerning the execution of the military operation in Gaza.
81. Concerns related to transparency and the participation of victims and witnesses in investigations reported by the Committee in its previous report continue to be relevant. NGOs, victims and their legal representatives have difficulty accessing information about progress in investigations. They report that the majority of their requests for information go unanswered. The Committee is of the view that transparency and participation help build the confidence of victims and other interested parties in the investigation process, including fostering a sense that credible and genuine investigations are taking place.
82. The Committee has strong reservations respecting the promptness of some investigations of individual incidents referred to by the Fact-Finding Mission. More than one third of the 36 incidents featured in the report of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission are still unresolved or unclear. The status of investigations into incidents in Israel and the West Bank is also unclear. Presumably this serious issue with respect to the ability of the military justice system to investigate promptly allegations of wrongdoing during military operations is under careful review by the Turkel Commission.
83. Finally, the Committee is concerned about the fact that the duration of the ongoing investigations into the allegations contained in the report of the Fact-Finding Mission — over two years since the end of the Gaza operation — could seriously impair their effectiveness and, therefore, the prospects of ultimately achieving accountability and justice.
C. The Palestinian side
1. The Palestinian Authority
84. In September the Committee reported that the investigation carried out by the Independent Investigation Commission conformed to international standards and could be considered credible and genuine. More recently the Commission has sought to complete its mandate by investigating rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and other human rights violations in the Gaza Strip. The Committee was informed that the Commission had been unable to do so, as it had not received positive responses to requests for access from either Israel or the de facto authorities in Gaza.
85. Nonetheless, the work of the Independent Investigation Commission did provide a solid basis for proceeding against perpetrators and developing other measures. In October 2010, the Council of Ministers of the Palestinian Authority established a Ministerial Committee with a mandate to issue recommendations to the Council of Ministers about implementation of the Commission’s report. The report of the Ministerial Committee details strategies for significant institutional change over the next nine months, including the establishment of a Constitutional Court. The report also urges that the Prime Minister issue a directive that employment in the civil service not be dependent on security clearances, and that an ad hoc committee review past administrative decisions that led to dismissals. The Ministerial Committee further recommended that the General Prosecutor conduct criminal investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings in Gaza, and of incidents in which officials allegedly refuse to implement court decisions.
86. The Committee was also informed that a decision has been taken to transfer cases from military to civilian courts and that the office of the General Prosecutor now conducts regular monitoring visits to military and civilian detention facilities.
87. These proposals and changes represent important developments. Nonetheless, the Committee is concerned that criminal accountability mechanisms have not yet been duly activated in relation to many of the allegations of serious violations in the report of the Fact-Finding Mission.
2. The de facto Gaza authorities
88. In September 2010, the Committee stated it had been unable to substantiate reports that the de facto Gaza authorities had released all political prisoners or conducted criminal prosecutions, in response to the FFM report.
89. The Committee acknowledges that the de facto authorities have now made efforts to provide specific information concerning criminal investigations into alleged human rights violations committed by their security forces. The Committee is aware of the fact that it is not uncommon for such cases to be resolved to the satisfaction of the families through out-of-court settlements.
90. Nevertheless, the Committee remains extremely concerned by the fact that the de facto authorities have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel. It considers that the de facto authorities should make serious efforts to conduct criminal inquiries into all the allegations of grave violations of international law implicated by these attacks.
During the period under review, the Palestinian Authority continued to implement its two-year programme of strengthening the State institutions of a future Palestinian State. The United Nations enhanced its support to those efforts and responded to humanitarian needs. In the key areas of United Nations engagement, the functions of the Palestinian Authority are sufficient for a functioning State government. However, those achievements remain constrained by the continued occupation by Israel and a political divide with Gaza.
The overall socio-economic and political situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained challenging, despite economic growth registered across the Territory, which was prompted by Palestinian and Israeli efforts. The Israeli-Palestinian direct talks, despite a brief resumption in September 2010, remained suspended during most of the reporting period. Calls for legislative and presidential elections, which had been postponed in 2010, also remained uncertain due to a continued political split between the West Bank and Gaza, although municipal elections have been set for July 2011. Unemployment and food insecurity remained high, particularly in Gaza, despite economic growth there resulting in part from the easing of the closure and from approval of a number of United Nations reconstruction projects. Key elements of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) remained unfulfilled.
The present report describes efforts made by the United Nations, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, donors and civil society, to support the Palestinian population and institutions.
92. The operational context for the United Nations in the reporting period improved. Despite economic growth registered across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which was prompted by Palestinian and Israeli efforts, the overall socio-economic and political situation in the Territory remained challenging. Major challenges included high unemployment and food insecurity, the rise in violent attacks and casualties, and the continued closure and restrictions on the movement of people and goods. The United Nations will continue to work towards the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009), an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian State, existing side by side in peace with a secure Israel.
1. In its resolution 2010/31, the Economic and Social Council called for the full opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), to ensure humanitarian access as well as the sustained and regular flow of persons and goods and the lifting of all movement restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people. The Council also called upon all parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law and to refrain from violence against the civilian population. It further called upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease its destruction of homes and properties, economic institutions and agricultural lands and orchards in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the occupied Syrian Golan. The Council reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, were illegal and constituted a major obstacle to economic and social development. It also reaffirmed that the ongoing construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, was contrary to international law and was isolating East Jerusalem, fragmenting the West Bank and seriously debilitating the economic and social development of the Palestinian people.
2. In its resolution 65/179, the General Assembly reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land and water, and demanded that Israel cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion of, and endangerment of natural resources. The Assembly stressed that the wall and settlements being constructed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, were contrary to international law and were seriously depriving the Palestinian people of access to their natural resources. The Assembly called upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The Assembly also called upon Israel to cease all actions harming the environment and its destruction of vital infrastructure.
94. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan continued to exacerbate economic and social hardship among the populations under occupation during 2010.
95. Illegal settlements and outposts continue to expand, the issues of settler violence against Palestinians and of adequately enforcing the law on settlers remain a very serious concern, Palestinian access to water remains inadequate, the environment continues to become degraded, poverty levels remain high, unemployment continues to be endemic despite some growth in Gross Domestic Product and health indicators continue to deteriorate.
96. There has been a limited easing of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, but essential supplies for reconstruction remain prohibited, truck traffic remains at a fraction of its pre-blockade levels and the movement of people remains tightly restricted.
97. Attacks by Palestinian factions on Israeli cities and towns have continued to inflict civilian casualties. Israel continues to violate international law, including by causing the death of and injury to Palestinian civilians, detaining thousands of Palestinians, including children, continuing to construct settlements and the wall and imposing a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
98. In his message to the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace on 29 March 2011, the Secretary-General said that all expressions of violence must stop, and their perpetrators brought to justice. He also said that the occupation that began in 1967 must end. He stressed that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to the establishment of an independent and viable State of their own, and that Israel has the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized and secure borders. Pointing to the urgency of realizing a two-State solution, he said that serious efforts should be exerted to bring the parties back to the negotiating table as soon as possible, based on existing agreements between the parties, the relevant Security Council resolutions, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.1
99. The United Nations will continue to work towards the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on international law and all relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, to put an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and to establish a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian State existing peacefully side by side with a secure Israel.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos today visited Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank on a day of violent protest in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In Ramallah, Ms. Amos met with President Mahmoud Abbas and also with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. She reiterated the determination of the United Nations and the humanitarian community as a whole to continue to assist those in need in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in areas where the Palestinian Authority cannot fully operate. She expressed her support for the Palestinian Authority and reaffirmed the United Nations’ commitment of the United nations to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood, sovereignty and freedom from occupation.
Ms. Amos visited a school in Khan Al Ahmar, in the Al Jahalin Bedouin community in Area C. Area C comprises 60 per cent of the West Bank but is still under full Israeli control with regard to security and planning and zoning. The Al Jahalin school is scheduled for demolition, because the community have not been able to obtain a building permit owing to restrictive and inadequate planning policies in Area C. Ms. Amos stressed that there could be no justification for depriving children of an education.
“Palestinians are utterly frustrated by the impact of Israeli policies on their lives. They can’t move freely around their territory. They can’t plan their communities. They are evicted from their homes. Their homes are regularly demolished,” said Ms. Amos. “I don’t believe that most people in Israel have any idea of the way planning policies are used to divide and harass communities and families. They would not themselves like to be subjected to such behaviour.”```
Ms. Amos also visited the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. In Sheikh Jarrah she met with families evicted from their homes to make way for settler communities. In Silwan, Ms. Amos saw first hand the impact of restrictive planning policies and the growing Israeli settler presence in the area. She also heard reports of increasing settler violence. Over 1,000 Palestinian residents in Silwan are currently threatened with displacement. Residents live in an atmosphere of constant friction and tension as a result of settlement activity and building in the heart of Silwan. Silwan has been a centre for violent activities in recent days.
Commenting on the day’s events, Ms. Amos said, “I am extremely concerned at the level of violence today, and at the number of deaths and injuries in the region. The situation cannot continue in this way. It is innocent people who are losing their lives.”
On 16 May, the third day of her visit, Ms. Amos plans to visit the Gaza Strip, where she will meet with Palestinians affected by the Blockade.
1. This report has been prepared in response to resolution WHA63.2. The secretariat has conducted a review of reports available from reliable sources that address the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In addition, the Government of Israel, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Palestinian Authority have been asked for information on the subject.
DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
2. The occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to cause economic and social hardship for Palestinians. Restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services during the past decade have severely weakened the Palestinian economy. Output per person was estimated to be 30 per cent less at the end of 2010 than it was in 2000;2 the output per person in the Gaza Strip in 2010 was around half that of the West Bank. Employment levels have deteriorated, affecting especially young people and those living in the Gaza Strip. Economic growth has, however, picked up in 2009 at an estimated 6.8 per cent. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth was much higher in the West Bank at 8.5 per cent than in the Gaza Strip at about 1 per cent. In the first half of 2010, the growth rate in the West Bank was estimated at 8 per cent. This constitutes the third consecutive year of GDP growth and could indicate a recovery of the economy in the West Bank.3 The recent economic growth may not be sustainable, though, as it is mostly due to government spending funded by donors and an increase in the employment of Palestinians in Israel and Israeli settlements.4
3. Overall, unemployment in the West Bank dropped from 15.9 per cent in the second quarter of 2009 to 15.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2010. At the same time, figures increased from 36 per cent to 39 per cent in the Gaza Strip.5
4. Poverty rates have decreased though they remain persistently high. In 2009, 21.9 per cent of the population fell below the poverty line compared to 31.2 per cent in 2007. The poverty rate in the Gaza Strip (33.2 per cent) is twice the rate of the West Bank (15.5 per cent). Deep poverty affected 7.5 per cent of the population in the West Bank compared to 20.0 per cent in the Gaza Strip.5
5. Private investment is reportedly picking up in some sectors, but not enough to take the place of donor funding as the main growth factor. Concurrently, there is and has been a continuous increase in new enterprises since 2006. These businesses are mostly involved in the commerce and service sectors, while sectors such as industry, agriculture and tourism lag behind.4
6. The blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip since June 2007 remains in effect. In June 2010, Israel announced an easing of the blockade which has resulted in an increase of imports. But the restrictions on the movement of people, the import of basic construction materials and the export of goods remain in place. While the relaxation of the blockade has helped private sector activity, an economic impact cannot be seen yet. With the ongoing export limits, the Gaza Strip’s potential to increase its economic activity and employment from a very low base remains restricted.6
7. The separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory adversely affects the economy, for instance in terms of employment opportunities for the population from the West Bank. A report by the International Peace and Cooperation Center notes that the separation barrier has had unfavourable economic effects on residents of East Jerusalem, such as decreased family income or relocation of workplace.7
8. The lack of access to land in Area C impacts significantly on economic activities and development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Apart from limiting physical access, the restrictions affect land use, agriculture, industries, housing and tourism. These measures apply to more than 50 per cent of the land in the West Bank.6
9. Access to water further impedes on the economic sector, particularly on the agricultural potential. It is estimated that the aquifers under the West Bank and Israel are significantly over-extracted by Israel. This means that less water is available to Palestinians through shallower wells for Palestinians. Among those dwelling within the region, Palestinians have the least access to fresh water.6
10. In the Gaza Strip, 90–95 per cent of the water supplies do not meet the drinking water standards. According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the levels of chlorides and nitrates in these water supplies are up to six times too high. As the water table is shallow and sewage infiltration likely, there is a public health risk of waterborne diseases such as typhoid or hepatitis.8
11. Close to two thirds of the population in the Gaza Strip and 25 per cent in the West Bank face food insecurity.9 On average, households in the Gaza Strip spend 72 per cent of their income on food, compared to 54 per cent in the West Bank.10 Over one million Palestinians remain in need of food assistance.11
12. The Gaza Strip continues to have an inadequate supply of electricity, which affects service provision as well as the daily life of the population. The cuts in electricity supply have various adverse effects, including on the water supply to households: reportedly, one in five households is supplied with running water once every five days; one in two households have water once every four days; and one in three households receive water every second day. Service providers continue to ensure electricity provision through backup generators.12
ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
13. The Ministry of Health, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), non-governmental organizations and private, commercial organizations constitute the four main providers of health services. The Ministry of Health runs 59 primary health care centres in the Gaza Strip and 381 in the West Bank. UNRWA operates 18 primary health-care centres in eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and 41 centres in the West Bank. The non-governmental sector manages 194 primary health-care centres and general clinics (57 in the Gaza Strip, 137 in the West Bank).13
14. There are 75 hospitals in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (50 in the West Bank, 25 in the Gaza Strip), with a total of 5058 beds in government and non-government hospitals. Almost three quarters of them are general beds, 16.0 per cent are specialized beds, 3.8 per cent are beds for rehabilitation and 7.5 per cent are maternity beds. Overall, there are 12.9 beds per 10,000 people (12.7 beds in the West Bank and 13.5 beds in the Gaza Strip).13
15. The Ministry of Health, with the support of donors, has continued to develop the scope and range of public health services in the West Bank. The hospital sector in particular has benefited from significant investment in infrastructure and equipment with several hospitals being rehabilitated and services developed. The Ministry of Health has also sought to strengthen its institutional and governance capacity, not least by further efforts to improve the planning process. However, the Palestinian health-care system continues to face many challenges. These include restriction of movement and access to health services. Movement within the West Bank has become a little easier over the past year as a result of the removal of some of the checkpoints, but many checkpoints and closures still remain. It is particularly difficult to access to east Jerusalem, where the main tertiary health services are provided. Administrative restrictions also have an impact on the provision of health care in rural areas classified as “Area C” under the Oslo Accords.
16. In the Gaza Strip, the provision of adequate health services to the population continues to be severely affected both by the Israeli blockade and Palestinian internal political divisions between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. While the hospitals and primary care clinics in the Gaza Strip continue to function, they face multiple challenges. For example, there have been growing shortages of essential drugs and consumables: 38 per cent of essential drugs were out of stock at central store level at the beginning of January 2011. Recurrent power cuts and an unstable power supply have adversely affected medical care: sensitive medical equipment is damaged, supportive services have had to be suspended, treatments can be interrupted or need to be postponed. The functionality of medical equipment has also been deteriorating because of inadequate maintenance capacity and lack of spare parts (although a programme supported by the Government of Italy and WHO has been seeking to address this). Many qualified health staff are not working because of the factional divide. It is also difficult to maintain or upgrade the professional knowledge and clinical skills of health staff because the Israeli restrictions on the movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip prevent access to appropriate and up-to-date education and training. The closure of the Gaza Strip is undermining the functioning of the health-care system, hampering the provision of medical supplies and the training of health staff and preventing patients with serious medical conditions receiving timely specialized treatment outside the Gaza Strip.
17. A total of 8,161 patients were referred for treatment outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2009: 3399 patients came from the West Bank and 4762 from the Gaza Strip.
18. Overall life expectancy is 70.5 years for males and 73.2 years for females. The population of the occupied Palestinian territory grows at a rate of 2.9 per cent (2.6 per cent in the West Bank and 3.3 per cent in the Gaza Strip). The crude birth rate declined over the past decade from 42.7 in 1997 to 29.6 in 2008.14
19. The total fertility rate in the occupied Palestinian territory was 4.6 in 2009 (4.1 in the West Bank and 5.3 in the Gaza Strip), which is comparatively high in the region. In terms of pregnant women, four out of 10 attend antenatal care while virtually all women deliver in health institutions.14 There were 30 maternal deaths in 2008 and 2009 in the Gaza Strip15 and 23 maternal deaths in 2009 in the West Bank,16 indicating a maternal mortality ratio of 29 per 100,000 live births in the Gaza Strip and 36.4 per 100,000 live births in the West Bank.17 Many pregnant women suffer from anaemia (45 per cent of pregnant women in the Gaza Strip and 20.6 per cent in the West Bank).18 About a third of newly pregnant women are immunized against tetanus in the West Bank.19
20. The leading causes of deaths in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are mostly noncommunicable diseases, the four leading causes being heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, cancer (led by trachea, colo-rectal and anal cancer) and inflammations of the respiratory system.19
21. The infant mortality rate has shown little improvement in recent years (25.34 per 1000 live births: 22.9 per 1000 live births in the West Bank, 28.8 per 1000 live births in the Gaza Strip).20 The main causes of death among infants are pneumonia and other respiratory disorders (34.5 per cent), congenital malformations (16.3 per cent) followed by prematurity and low birth weight (13.4 per cent).19
I commemorate Nakba this year dismayed by the killing of demonstrators observing the day in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and elsewhere in the region.
Since the Nakba on 15 May 1948 Israel has continuously confiscated Palestinian land in order to build illegal settlements and populate them with Israeli citizens. It is astonishing that no one in the international community has stepped forward, after 63 years, to coerce Israel to comply with international law. Israel’s legacy of ethnic cleansing persists and manifests itself in an array of challenges to the security of residency for Palestinians living under occupation.
The construction of the wall inside the West Bank results in an additional 12 per cent of land confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes, in flagrant defiance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.
This past week seven Palestinian families in the West Bank village of al-Walaja received demolition orders. This is a reminder that the Nakba continues. Israel’s pursuit of what it calls "facts on the ground" consistently forces Palestinians to abandon their homes, lands, and lives, creating a reality better understood as virtual annexation.
This is a particularly notable Nakba anniversary, as it coincides with the release of information confirming that Israel secretly revoked as many as 140,000 residency permits of Palestinians between 1967 and 1994. This is not only another violation of Israel’s obligations as the Occupying Power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is also a glaring example of several sinister schemes that Israel has employed over the years to rid historic Palestine of its original inhabitants, in order to make space for Israeli citizens.
The international community needs to take urgent action to compel Israel to end its confiscation and occupation of Palestinian land.”
I deplore the deaths of Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the occupied Golan Heights and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
As Commissioner-General of UNRWA, I continue to follow the situation confronting the population we serve with concern and I echo the call on all parties to show restraint and ensure that civilians are not killed or injured.
These sad events demonstrate once more the vulnerability of the Palestine refugees we serve.
They underline the need for a just and durable solution, based on UN resolutions, to resolve the plight of those who have endured statelessness, exile and dispossession for 63 years.
At a time of profound and far-reaching change in the region, I urge the parties to address what the Secretary-General has called the “unsustainable status quo in the Arab-Israeli conflict” including the fate of the refugees.
I fear that failure to do so will only lead to more instability and further loss of life.
In the past decade, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has worked to strengthen economic governance The term “governance” is used in a number of different ways which are beyond the scope of this report. We have used the term “economic governance” to refer more specifically to the management of public finances, functioning of core public institutions, and regulation of economic activities. For the remainder of the report the term governance is used to refer to “economic governance.”
and combat corruption, both essential to sustained economic growth and improved delivery of public services. This report finds the PA has made significant progress in its public institutions, establishing a strong governance environment in many critical areas. But it also identifies areas where reforms are underway but incomplete or, in some areas, not yet under consideration.
Major reforms have been put in place to strengthen the PA’s public financial management systems and better manage its equity holdings, two crucial components in the public finance sector. In other important areas, such as public procurement, public sector employment, regulation of the private sector and the work of anti-corruption institutions, reforms are under way but have not been fully implemented.
While the PA is to be credited for the advances it has made to strengthen governance since its inception in 1994, reforms are needed in a number of important areas, namely management of state land assets, transparency in licensing and business rights and public access to government information. The PA should jump-start reform efforts in these areas, while solidifying recent achievements and continuing to make progress on reform efforts currently underway.
Consistent with the improvements in Palestinian government institutions are the report’s survey results, showing that public sector corruption is not viewed as among the most serious problems facing Palestinians. Moreover, while previous surveys have documented perceptions of corruption in the West Bank and Gaza, this study compares perceptions with actual experience. The results show that very few Palestinians experienced corruption when accessing public services. However, perceptions of corruption with respect to these same services are relatively high.
Two events with important implications took place during the reporting period. On 27 April, Palestinian factions concluded a reconciliation agreement under Egyptian auspices designed to overcome years of division. Last Sunday, there were serious clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory during the largest popular demonstration of Palestinians in many years.
Both developments remind us that popular protests and political change continue to sweep the Arab world and shake the unsustainable status quo found in many parts of the Middle East. The Arab-Israeli conflict will not be immune to these dramatic developments. One way or another, change will come to it, too. This change must be shaped to positive ends.
Yet we are worryingly stuck regarding the search for a two-State solution. As evidenced by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to the Knesset on 16 May and President Abbas’s opinion piece in the New York Times on the same date, both sides profess their desire to negotiate a two-State solution. However, deep differences over the stalemate in the peace process remain. There is a genuine lack of trust, and no credible initiative has yet been taken that could overcome the impasse. In the absence of negotiations, and amidst continued Israeli settlement expansion, the Palestinians are preparing to approach the United Nations in September to seek recognition of a Palestinian State.
I turn first to the Palestinian reconciliation agreement. Bearing in mind Security Council resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009), the Secretary-General has continually supported efforts for Palestinian unity and the work of Egypt in that regard. The Secretary-General wishes to see unity in the framework of the positions of the Quartet and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Within this framework, the Secretary-General asked me to represent him on 4 May at the ceremony in Cairo that marked the conclusion of the accord. The accord was signed by Fatah and Hamas, together with other Palestinian factions. Faction representatives met again earlier this week in Cairo for discussions on the implementation of the accord, which will clearly be a process rather than an event. The accord has been widely welcomed by the Palestinians, who have strongly pressed their leaders in this direction. Civil society figures have been active in the process.
Under the accord, a Palestinian Government of national “capables”, or technocrats, is to be formed, with the Prime Minister and ministers agreed by consensus. The Government is to prepare for simultaneous elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the presidency and, where this is possible, the Palestinian National Council, in one year, organized and overseen by reformed electoral institutions. During the transitional period until elections, the Government is to begin reunifying Palestinian institutions and follow up on Gaza reconstruction.
The agreement also envisages the establishment of an interim committee to address national political issues, in which Hamas and other non-PLO factions would participate with PLO factions, including Fatah, pending National Council elections. However, it is explicitly stated that the work of this committee will not contradict the jurisdiction of the Executive Committee of the PLO, which is recognized internationally as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
At the Cairo ceremony, President Abbas reiterated his full commitment to the platform of the PLO, which has long accepted Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and renounced violence and terrorism, and which remains committed to existing agreements. He has stated that any Government he commissions would support this programme.
The accord envisages the reform of Palestinian security forces on a national and professional basis, and the establishment of a security committee of professional officers, with the participation of Egypt. Security reform is likely to be a gradual process. The current realities are expected to continue for the immediate future. In particular, we believe it is understood that the security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the West Bank must continue, and this is to be respected by all parties. Equally, we believe there is an intention to observe the calm that is now in place between Israel and Gaza, which had been secured in early April with Egyptian and United Nations assistance.
I can report that no rockets and three mortars were fired from Gaza during the reporting period. Calm from Hamas has been met with Israeli restraint. There were five Israeli incursions and no air strikes into Gaza. Apart from incidents on 15 May, which I will come to later, one alleged militant and five Palestinian civilians were injured in incidents with Israel security forces, while there were no Israeli deaths, injuries or material damage around Gaza. The de facto authorities in Gaza must now actively maintain this encouraging and important calm. Israel must show maximum restraint and ensure an environment conducive to calm.
In the West Bank, existing security cooperation and performance has been sustained. A seventh battalion of Palestinian security forces returned to the West Bank from training in Jordan with international assistance, raising the number of newly trained security personnel in the West Bank to over 3,500. We stress the importance of this process continuing under any future Government.
Some Hamas statements have suggested that the faction is ready, within the framework of the accord, to submit to national decisions on issues on which the movement itself has extreme positions. However, other statements assert those extreme positions in worrying terms. Statements such as those calling on the PLO to renounce its recognition of Israel, lauding Osama bin Laden or stressing that the movement’s sole programme is resistance are a reminder of why deep international concerns remain and why we must follow developments vigilantly.
We also note Prime Minister Netanyahu’s serious concerns about the accord, which have been repeated to me by many Israeli interlocutors.
Yet, we would counsel against reaching a predetermined view about the accord’s merits or prospects. The reunification of Gaza and the West Bank is a vital goal for all interested in peace, and the process should not be underlined in its infancy. We must encourage the formation of a non-factional Government under President Abbas, with an effective Prime Minister and ministers, who are able to preserve the functioning security apparatus on the ground in the West Bank, adhere to calm in Gaza, expand the State-building agenda, oversee reconstruction in Gaza, begin the process of reintegration and prepare for new elections. The Government should be able to fully support President Abbas’s programme. The international community’s expectations reflected in Quartet statements are directed to any Palestinian Government and are clear.
I am pleased that the Israeli Government has now decided to transfer value added tax and customs revenues that were withheld from the Government of Prime Minster Fayyad for a period after the announcement of the reconciliation accord. These funds are collected from Palestinians and are essential for meeting normal budgetary gaps and paying salaries to employees, including security personnel who are maintaining cooperation with Israel. Israel’s adherence to its international obligations is the right way to promote cooperation with a responsible Palestinian partner.
We appeal to donors to remain fully engaged. To date, the Palestinian Authority has received about $30 million less per month than what is budgeted for the first four and a half months of 2011. Inadequate donor support for the budget would undermine Government functions and the State-building agenda, affecting the ability of the Palestinian Authority to borrow to meet recurrent expenditures. Continued engagement based on an assessment of the make-up and real policies of any new Government under President Abbas can empower moderation, enhance security, restore hope, help begin Gaza’s reconstruction and contribute to reunification.
We take note of President Abbas’s concerns about Israel’s continued expansion of settlements contrary to the Road Map and international law. We call once again for Israel to freeze settlement activity, which continued apace during the reporting period in East Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank. We also continue to stress the need for further measures regarding Area C and East Jerusalem, both in enabling Palestinian efforts and supporting vulnerable communities.
Further measures of liberalization in Gaza are also essential to solidify the modest progress already made and empower those seeking continued calm. The Secretary-General urges the Government of Israel to take further meaningful and far-reaching steps to end the closure of Gaza within the framework of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). A free flow of both people and construction materials in Gaza remains a central objective of the United Nations.
At present, we urgently need the approval of further projects, including two United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) housing projects in Khan Younis and Rafah, totalling 1,100 units. Moreover, the market in aggregate, steel bar and cement — the so-called "ABC" of construction in Gaza — can and should be liberalized by the Israeli authorities, particularly given the quantities of construction material now entering through unregulated tunnels.
The United Nations believes that all assistance and legitimate goods destined for Gaza should be channelled through official crossings and established channels, as requested by the Quartet on 21 June 2010 and the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 13 April 2011. In this regard, we continue to urge action to combat the smuggling of weapons.
The Secretary-General is also following with concern media reports of potential new flotillas to Gaza that can provoke unnecessary confrontations. The Secretary-General calls on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential for escalation. He further calls on all to act responsibly to avoid any violent incidents.
We must also open Gaza to enable its civil society and children to engage with the world. I can personally attest to the positive impact of the visit of United Nations Messenger for Peace Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestra for Gaza, comprising musicians from leading European orchestras, who performed a concert of works by Mozart on 3 May in Gaza.
I renew our calls for Hamas to release and allow humanitarian access to Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who will have been in captivity for five years next month. Now is clearly the time to resolve this humanitarian issue through a prisoner exchange. In that context, we also follow with concern the situation of several thousand Palestinians in Israeli prisons, and we continue to underscore the importance of the release of prisoners to the Palestinian Authority.
In the occupied West Bank on 15 May, 164 people were reportedly injured, mostly in Area C and East Jerusalem, where Israeli security forces are present, while Palestinian security forces generally prevented demonstrators in Area A from approaching Israeli security positions. In Gaza, 80 people were reportedly injured in clashes between demonstrators and the Israel Defense Forces in the Beit Hanoun area near the Erez crossing. On the same day, one Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire in the buffer zone area in Gaza. We await details of an incident in Tel Aviv that day involving a truck that left 1 Israeli killed and 17 injured.
The Secretary-General expressed his deep concern about the fact that a significant number of people were killed or injured during the events of 15 May. He called on all concerned to show restraint and refrain from provocations, so as to prevent any escalation of tensions and ensure that civilians involved in protests are not killed or injured. We further note that the protests involved violations of the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon and the disengagement line along the occupied Golan Heights, and stress the importance of the Governments in the area ensuring respect for these lines.
Among the other serious incidents that took place during the reporting period, two were fatal. A Palestinian child was killed in East Jerusalem on 14 May, apparently by a settler. An Israeli civilian was killed and four others were injured by Palestinian security forces on 24 April during an uncoordinated visit by settlers to a Palestinian-controlled religious site in the West Bank.
I would like now to turn briefly to the situation in Lebanon, where, with the exception of the grave incident of 15 May that I just reported, the overall situation in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon area of operations has remained generally stable over the last month. Israeli air violations continued on an almost daily basis.
At the political level, almost four months after his nomination as Prime Minister-designate by President Sleiman, consultations by Najib Mikati with the new parliamentary majority have not led to agreement on the composition of Lebanon’s next Government. We continue to believe that a Government supported by all is critical to enabling the country to face important challenges in the political, economic, social and security spheres.
At this difficult time in the region, we take this opportunity to urge continued funding for UNRWA and its support for refugees. The Agency faces an overall deficit of nearly $65 million in 2011 in its General Fund, a shortfall that if not bridged would have significant consequences. UNRWA also requires an additional $6 million in support for its 2011 Summer Games activities for children in Gaza.
We are now three months away from September. There is a State-building agenda that has ensured Palestinian institutional readiness for statehood in the West Bank, and there is now a unity process in its infancy. We hope that real security and economic improvements can be continued in the West Bank and broadened to begin to include Gaza, and that elections can take place in a year. We urge all parties to give this process a chance, while reminding the Palestinians of the importance of agreeing on a Government that can live up to the expectations of the people, meet the concerns of the international community and support negotiations with Israel.
But with September just around the corner, a meaningful political initiative offers the only prospect for reaching September with the various dynamics in play working together towards one objective: a negotiated, two-State solution. In the absence of an initiative, it is too early to assess whether September will bring a new and more effective paradigm for resolving the conflict through negotiations, or renewed confrontation between the parties in the diplomatic arena or on the ground.
We strongly agree with United States President Obama that it is more than ever vital to solve this conflict, and we will be following closely his speech on the region today. We also await the address of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United States Congress next week, and whether an initiative for breaking the logjam will be announced. We will continue to seek enhanced and substantive Quartet engagement to shape the process between now and September, as well as beyond. We must show purpose, rather than paralysis, as we approach a critical period in the search for peace in the Middle East.
In closing, let me thank retiring United States Envoy George Mitchell for his two years of tireless and difficult work on peace in the Middle East. The Secretary-General and I appreciated our close working relationship with him and his team. We will continue to work closely with the United States and all our regional and international partners in the quest for a two-State solution.
The Secretary-General welcomes United States President Barack Obama’s important speech on the historic developments taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. The Secretary-General has consistently expressed his support for the legitimate aspirations of the people in the region for greater freedom, dignity and a better life. The Secretary-General continues to call on the leaders throughout the region to reject the use of force, violence and repression, and to choose the path of comprehensive reform and inclusive dialogue. He believes it is the people of the region who will lead the way, and he pledges the full assistance of the United Nations.
On the Middle East peace process, the Secretary-General believes that President Obama has offered important ideas that could help the peace talks move forward, consistent with international positions and responding to the legitimate core concerns of both parties. He encourages Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to respond as statesmen and peacemakers to this important speech. He hopes all sides will demonstrate a renewed determination to achieve a peace agreement that provides for two States living side by side in dignity, security and peace.
The Members of the Quartet are in full agreement about the urgent need to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. To that effect, the Quartet expressed its strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by United States President Barack Obama on 19 May 2011. The Quartet agrees that moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict through serious and substantive negotiations and mutual agreement on all core issues.
The Quartet reiterates its strong appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions. The Quartet further recommits itself to its previous statements and principles.
The Secretary-General has sent a letter to Governments of countries around the Mediterranean Sea. In these letters, the Secretary-General indicated that he was following with concern media reports of potential flotillas to Gaza. He expressed his belief that assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channelled through legitimate crossings and established channels. He recalled the statements of the Quartet on 21 June 2010 and the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 13 April 2011 in this regard.
The Secretary-General called on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict. He further called on all, including the Government of Israel, to act responsibly and with caution to avoid any violent incident.
The Secretary-General reiterated that, while he believed that flotillas were not helpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza, the situation there remains unsustainable. He urged the Government of Israel to take further meaningful and far-reaching steps to end the closure of Gaza, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). In particular, he underlined that it was essential for the operation of legitimate crossings to be adequate to meet the needs of Gaza’s civilian population.
1The full text of the message of the Secretary-General is available from www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=5173.
2UNCTAD 2010. Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people. TD/B/57/4. Geneva. 13 July 2010.
7The International Peace and Cooperation Center: Jerusalem Wall: A Decade of Division and Urban Incarceration – A Survey on the Impact of the Separation Wall on Jerusalem. Jerusalem, 2009.
13Palestinian Ministry of Health, Health Annual Report Palestine. Palestinian Health Information Centre, 2010.
14Palestinian Ministry of Health, Health Annual Report Palestine. Palestinian Health Information Centre, April 2010.
15Ministry of Health and UNFPA, 2011, preliminary findings (unpublished).
16Ministry of Health, 2010. Report on Maternal Mortality in the Palestinian territories (the West Bank) in 2009.
17The provided ratio is only indicative, as the maternal mortality ratio is calculated from observed (reported) number of deaths, which is likely to have resulted in incomplete reporting.
18Palestinian Ministry of Health, Nutrition Surveillance System Report, Ministry of Health, 2009.
19Palestinian Ministry of Health, Health Annual Report Palestine. Palestinian Health Information Centre, 2010.
20Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Demographic and Health Survey (2004) and Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women2006. In 2006, the infant mortality rate was 25.34 per 1000 live births (22.9 per 1000 live births in the West Bank, 28.8 per 1000 live births in the Gaza Strip), mortality rate of children under the age of 5 years was 28.23 per 1000 (25.7 per 1000 in the West Bank and 31.7 per 1000 in the Gaza Strip).