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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
8 July 2013

Key issues

One Palestinian was shot and killed in a search and arrest operation in the West Bank.

Around 50 Palestinians in two herding communities in the Jordan Valley were displaced following the demolition of their homes.

Rafah Crossing was closed this week raising concerns regarding free movement of people, including for medical treatment abroad.

Despite a slight improvement in delivery of fuel to Gaza via the tunnels, the fuel supplies remain low, impacting upon provision of health and water and sanitation services.


Clashes with Israeli forces continue; one Palestinian killed and around 40 injured

As in previous weeks, the number of clashes and resulting injuries between Palestinian civilians and Israeli forces during the week remained relatively limited. However, in one incident on 2 July, Israeli forces shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian man during a clash that erupted in the context of a search and arrest operation in Dura village (Hebron). The Israeli Military Police has opened an investigation into the incident. Two other search and arrest operations in Al Jalazoun refugee camp (Ramallah), Jinba village (Hebron) and Tubas city triggered clashes that resulted in the injury of 14 Palestinians. Overall, during the week, Israeli forces conducted more than 90 search and arrest operations across the West Bank, an increase compared to the weekly average of 80 such operations since the beginning of the year.

Another 15 Palestinians were injured during the week in clashes that took place during various demonstrations: in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya) and Beitin (Ramallah), against the long-standing closure of a route connecting the villages to their main service centers in Nablus and Ramallah cities, respectively; at Beituniya checkpoint (Ramallah) in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners; and in Bil’in village (Ramallah) against the isolation of land by the Barrier.

Also this week, four Palestinians were injured in Nablus city by tear gas fired by Israeli forces, who were accompanying an Israeli group that came to pray at the Tomb of Joseph (a religious site located in Nablus city). The Israeli forces had used the tear gas after the Israeli group was stoned by local Palestinian residents.

Slight decline in settler-related incidents

During the reporting period, OCHA recorded one settler-related incident that led to Palestinian injuries and four other incidents that resulted in damage to Palestinian property. This is lower than the previous weekly average of such incidents recorded so far in 2013 (8). No Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlers were reported for the third week in a row.

On 8 July, in an attempt to take over a piece of land next to a house in the At Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a group of Israeli settlers clashed with local residents; two Palestinians were beaten with batons and sticks. The Israeli settlers, who claim they bought part of the land, erected a tent near the house which was subsequently dismantled by the Israeli police.

In two other incidents in Nablus on 5 July, Israeli settlers reportedly set fire to olive and almond trees and wheat crops belonging to Palestinian farmers from Burin, Kafr Qalil and Huwwara villages, damaging dozens of trees and an unknown volume of wheat. Also in the Nablus area, Israeli settlers vandalized and damaged a tractor for transporting water in ‘Urif village – this is the third such incident in as many weeks. The tractor is part of a USAID-funded project to facilitate water provision to three villages in this area.

Demolitions in Area C continue

This week, a total of 32 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished on grounds that they were built without Israeli-issued building permits. This week’s demolitions led to the displacement of seven families comprising 48 people, including 11 children, and affected seven other people.

The majority of this week’s demolitions (31) occurred in Al Hadidiya and Khirbet Ar Ras al Ahmar, two small herding communities in Area C in the northern Jordan Valley. Both communities are located in areas designated by the Israeli authorities as a “closed military zone”, the first due to its location within the municipal boundaries of an Israeli settlement, and the second due to its location within an area allocated for military training (a “firing zone”). Around 30 per cent of the targeted structures were residential tents. All of them were donated by international donors or the Palestinian Ministry of Local Government in response to prior demolitions. The remaining structures included mostly animal shelters. Also in the Jordan Valley, in ‘Atuf village (Tubas), the Israeli authorities demolished an artesian well that was under construction and which had been planned for irrigation.

Improvement in access in Ramallah governorate

This week, in the context of an upcoming package of “easing measures” on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, the Israeli authorities removed two earthmounds that blocked one of the main routes into Ramallah city (the original route of Road 60). The obstacles were located in Ein Siniya village and have been in place for over ten years. In conjunction with a checkpoint that restricts access to Ramallah from the east (DCO checkpoint), the removed obstacles funneled all traffic into the city from the northern West Bank along a single main route (via ‘Atara village) which is controlled by a partial checkpoint and often becomes very congested. Therefore, the removal of the earthmounds is expected to result in a significant improvement in access to services and livelihoods for a large population. The Israeli authorities also announced a number of measures aimed at facilitating increased access for worshippers from the West Bank to East Jerusalem during Ramadan; OCHA will be monitoring and reporting on access throughout the month.


Rafah closes, raising humanitarian concerns

On 5 July, the Egyptian authorities closed the Egyptian-controlled Rafah passenger crossing until further notice, citing security concerns. Official sources in Gaza indicated that as a result of the closure, more than 3,000 Palestinians waiting to enter Gaza are currently stranded on the Egyptian side and around 15,000 other travelers, including patients and students, are waiting to cross into Egypt.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an average of 300 patients are usually permitted to exit the Gaza Strip per day in order to access medical treatment, having been either referred by the Ministry of Health or at their own expense. The closure of Rafah for four days during the reporting period has delayed access to medical treatment for hundreds of people. The Ministry of Health reported that the lives of 360 patients are at risk due to the continued closure of Rafah crossing, some of whom need to urgently travel to Egypt to continue their treatments. Additionally, the closure of the Rafah passenger crossing is undermining the already reduced stocks of drugs and medical disposables in Gaza’s central store; 30 per cent of donated drugs and 25 per cent of donated medical disposables are normally transferred officially through the Rafah crossing.

Events in Egypt trigger a halt in movement of people and goods

During the reporting period, the Egyptian authorities implemented a number of measures that impacted the movement of people and goods, both through the official channels and through the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. These measures have been implemented in the context of the ongoing political situation in Egypt, as well as in connection to the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai Peninsula.

Closure of tunnels results in increased shortages of fuel and building materials

Following similar measures in the previous two weeks, during this reporting period the Egyptian authorities, destroyed another 25 tunnels that operated under its border with the Gaza Strip. Combined with the heavy Egyptian military deployment along the border and severe access restrictions on people and vehicles into the border area, these measures have led to a dramatic decline in the transfer of goods and fuel through the tunnels. In recent years, the tunnels have become the main channel for the supply to Gazan markets of building materials, whose import through the official crossing with Israel is severely restricted, and of fuels, which are cheaper (due to subsidies) in Egypt than in Israel. It is estimated that fewer than 10 tunnels were operating by the end of this reporting period.

Local sources in the Gaza Strip report that there has been a resumption of transfer of fuel through the tunnels since 7 July but in very limited amounts: an estimated 1.5 million liters of diesel and 250,000 of petrol, an amount that is insufficient to meet demands. Fuel is still being rationed and prioritized for the public sector, including the power plant, hospitals and water and wastewater facilities. Private contractors have reportedly resumed purchases of fuel from Israel to compensate for the reduction in supply through the tunnels; however, due to the significant price difference the quantities acquired have been small.

Despite the current shortage of fuel, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) continues to operate three turbines, two-thirds of its capacity (120 megawatts), using its fuel reserves and the limited quantity of fuel that was delivered through the tunnels this week. As a result, the scheduled power supply remained at 12- 16 hours per day on average.

Hospitals in the Gaza Strip rely heavily on fuel to run their backup generators due to prolonged power cuts, however their fuel reserves have reached dangerously low levels. In addition, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) report that they are now relying only on ambulances that run on diesel and have had to stop the operation of the 24 ambulances with petrol engines due to lack of petrol supplies.

Since 5 July, Gaza City Municipality has reportedly had to release 60,000 m3 of untreated wastewater in to the sea and has reduced its solid waste collection and transportation to landfill by 50 per cent over the week. Access for individuals to petrol and diesel remains limited and long queues of vehicles continue to be reported at the fuel stations across the Gaza Strip.

Transfer of construction materials through the tunnels continues to be extremely limited for the second week in a row, resulting in severe shortages of basic materials including cement, gravel and steel bars at the local market. The Ministry of housing and Public Works in the Gaza Strip has indicated that construction activities have severely declined and that, if prolonged, the shortage of building materials will necessarily result in the loss of jobs in the construction sector, further increasing the already high unemployment rate (34.5 percent).

Relative calm along the fence with Israel continues

While relative calm continues, this week a number of incidents were recorded in the context of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to land along the perimeter fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip and to the sea beyond 6 nautical miles (NM). While no injuries were reported, access to livelihoods in these areas continues to be affected.

In three incidents near the fence this week, Israeli forces fired warning shots at farmers, forcing them out of the area, and conducted land-leveling operations. On at least four additional occasions, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire at fishermen who were reportedly sailing near the 6 NM limit, forcing them to leave the area. There were no injuries but one boat and some fishing equipment were damaged. Also, according to Israeli sources, armed men opened fire towards Israeli naval forces off the coast on 5 July and the latter responded by opening fire towards the shore. No injuries or damage were reported.

Palestinian armed groups reportedly fired a rocket towards Israel that landed inside the Gaza Strip; no injuries or damage were reported.

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