The Israeli military operation against the Flotilla sailing to Gaza in May 2010 and the international uproar that it caused led to the Israeli Government’s decision on 20 June to loosen up the access regime of the Gaza Strip. However, changes on the ground in terms of access (humanitarian and commercial) have been very limited. The announcement in December by the Israeli Government of new measures to facilitate exports out of Gaza was a welcome development, but at the end of the year levels of exports were still far below pre-blockade levels.
The living conditions of the Gaza population have severely deteriorated since the blockade was imposed by the Israeli authorities after the Hamas’s coup against Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
In 2010, the blockade continued to paralyse the private sector and to drive many Palestinians into unemployment and poverty. It also continued to prevent urgently needed reconstruction work from progressing and to hamper the economic recovery which was crucial after the Israeli military offensive “Cast Lead” ending in January 2009.
In the West Bank, the burden of the Separation Barrier and of the 500 physical obstacles seriously impeding the movement of the Palestinian population has been compounded by increasing settler violence. The Israeli decision not to extend the partial and temporary moratorium on the construction of settlements has further aggravated Palestinians’ already dire living situation. In Area C of the West Bank, more than 350 structures were demolished by the Israeli authorities, causing the displacement of about 500 people, including around 250 children.
Restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by Israeli authorities have continued to impact the lives of Palestinians: economic growth is still impaired, and people’s access to education, employment, healthcare and other services is still heavily disrupted. At the same time, settlers’ violence, confiscation of land, forced evictions, house demolitions and displacements went on uninterrupted in 2010.
Humanitarian aid in these areas focuses on basic needs such as food assistance, water supply, health and sanitation, as well as protection and psychosocial activities.
In 2010, evictions and house demolitions were a growing concern for Palestinian communities living in East Jerusalem and more and more Palestinian families run the risk of displacement or eviction.
Living conditions for most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are very precarious. With two thirds of them living in UNRWA camps or unofficial gatherings scattered across the country, they have limited access to basic services. Palestinian refugees remain highly dependent on external assistance for the provision of healthcare, and humanitarian food assistance in the Nahr El Bared Camp, where the entire population has been displaced, is still an acute need.
The Commission provided € 58 million for humanitarian operations benefiting Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Lebanon.
A total of € 51 million was devoted to operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 62% of the response directly supported the population of Gaza. In the protection sector, the Commission paid particular attention to the prevention of violations of international humanitarian law. The working environment in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, where restricted access continues to shrink humanitarian space, remains volatile. In the occupied Palestinian territory, close and effective coordination was maintained with other donors to ensure that humanitarian assistance and other programmes complement each other, in particular Pegase.
For Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (€ 7 million), a significant part of the EU humanitarian aid supported the Nahr El Bard population through in-cash or in-kind food assistance, rental subsidies and shelter rehabilitation activities.