This month’s Bulletin highlights Israel’s ongoing plans to “relocate” some 7,000 Palestinian Bedouin in the central West Bank, and another 450 in the southern Hebron governorate, combined with continuing practices that create a coercive environment for these vulnerable communities. These practices include demolition orders on the grounds of lack of building permits, in addition to the seizure of basic infrastructure such as solar panels. Most of the communities concerned are located to the east of Jerusalem in an area allocated for the expansion of Israeli settlements, a factor noted by the UN Secretary-General, who added: “The Bedouins and herders are at risk of forcible transfer, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as multiple human rights violations.1
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire. The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing remained closed for the whole of April and has opened for only five days in 2015 to date, particularly affecting medical patients. Although there has been a significant increase in the number of people leaving Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel in recent months, this has not offset the drastic reduction in passage through Rafah.
As we approach one year since the marked escalation of hostilities in Gaza, the first in a series of planned features focuses on the continuing impact of destruction and damage to health, education, and water and wastewater infrastructure. Although most of the damaged educational facilities have been — or are being — repaired, reconstruction has still to begin on six government and private schools and eleven kindergartens that were completely destroyed. Likewise, although progress has been made on repairs to damaged medical facilities, the rehabilitation of seven Ministry of Health hospitals and 12 clinics has been slowed or stopped due to the unavailability of construction materials. Although the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is facilitating repair at an increasing rate, it was designed as a temporary measure to allow the entry of construction materials in the immediate post-conflict period, and is not a substitute for the lifting of all closures in Gaza.
In a recent report, the World Bank detailed the impact on the Gaza economy of recent shocks, primarily last summer’s hostilities and the progressive closure of the smuggling tunnels — formerly Gaza’s prime economic activity — by the Egyptian authorities since mid-2013. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Gaza contracted by 15 per cent in 2014 and real per capita income is now 31 per cent lower than it was 20 years ago. Unemployment reached 43 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014, “probably the highest in the world.” Particularly alarming is youth unemployment in Gaza which climbed to more than 60 percent by the end of 2014. However, the World Bank cautions that these statistics “fail to portray the degree of suffering of Gaza’s citizens due to poor electricity and water/ sewerage availability, war-related psychological trauma, limited movement, and other adverse effects of wars and the blockade.”2
The scale of personal suffering was also emphasized by the new UN Special Coordinator, Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, following his first visit to Gaza. In a briefing to the Security Council, Mr. Mladenov declared that “no one can remain untouched by the scale of devastation, the slow pace of reconstruction, and the vast needs to rebuild lives and livelihoods. Gaza is desperate and Gaza is angry. There is a clear moral and humanitarian imperative not just for the United Nations and the Palestinian authorities to prevent the implosion of Gaza.” Mr. Mladenov reiterated “that the United Nations ultimate objective in Gaza is to see a lifting of all closures, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1860.”3
1 Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, Report by the 8ecretary-General, A/HRC/24/45, 5 March 2015, para. 45.http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G15/043/18/PDF/G1504318.pdf?OpenElement
2 World Bank, Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, 27 May, 2015. http://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/economic-monitoring-report-ad-hoc-liaison-committee-27-may
3 Briefing to the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, 19 May 2015. http://www.unsco.org/Documents/Statements/MSCB/2008/Security%20Council%20Briefing%20-%2019%20May%202015.pdf