Some 30 percent of this month’s injuries were children. This has occurred in the context of a worrying increase in the number of child casualties, displacement and incidents leading to disruptions in education since the beginning of this year. Thus far in 2011, twice as many children have been injured per month, on average, compared to 2010. In addition, over four times as many children have been displaced, due to the demolition of their homes, than were displaced during the first five months of 2010.
This month, two development in the access of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip took place. First, the Israeli authorities began operating a new facility at the Kerem Shalom Crossing designated for the transfer of bulk aggregates. This allowed resumption in the entry of aggregates for
The second development that occurred towards the end of the month is the official reopening of the Rafah border crossing by the Egyptian authorities, nearly four years after it was closed following the take-over of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007. However, lack of clarity on technical issues, as well as disputes between the Egyptian and the Gazan authorities concerning the implementation of the new procedures have disrupted the functioning of the crossing and the actual benefit of the change in policy for Gazan civilians is uncertain.
An additional major concern highlighted this month is the lack of a secure legal status affecting many Palestinians. Documents disclosed in early May by the Israeli government reveal that, as much as, 140,000 West Bank residents were stripped of their residency status between 1967 and 1994. While some of those whose status was revoked were later allowed to return, the vast majority were not. Many others are currently at risk of being deported, prevented from returning to their homes, or living separated from their families due to their lack of a secure status. The groups that face the greatest risk are East Jerusalem ID holders who reside outside the city, Gaza residents who live in the West Bank, and the spouses of Palestinians and foreign nationals who live in the West Bank.
Given the poor humanitarian situation affecting large segments of the oPt population, there is considerable concern over the significant shortfall in humanitarian funding for the oPt. As of the end of May, the 2011 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), with a total request of USD 585.6 million, was only 24 percent funded. In the absence of additional pledges, organizations will be forced to scale back activities in the second half of 2011. While the impact of shortfalls in the CAP is felt across all humanitarian sectors, the food security sector, which has the highest financial requirements at over $204 million, is among the most affected. If funds are not secured in the coming months, both UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP), the two largest providers of food assistance, will have to implement major cuts to their food assistance projects, affecting hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. The agency has also been forced to suspend school feeding programmes in Gaza, which serve 92,000 school children.
It is in the context of the abovementioned concerns and gaps that UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos carried out her first official mission to the oPt between 14 and 17 May. Over the course of her visit, which included a range of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials and field visits in the oPt and Israel, Ms. Amos called for a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, an end to forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, a suspension of the demolition of Palestinian homes, schools and other structures; and, underscored the importance of civilians being protected from violence. She also reaffirmed the United Nations’ commitment to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood, sovereignty and freedom from occupation.
Concerns of excessive force used against Palestinian protesters
Palestinian right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression undermined in the oPt
The month of May witnessed the highest number of casualties from demonstrations and clashes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) since March 2010: a total of 319 Palestinians, including 96 children, were injured in this context, constituting 83 percent of the overall number of Palestinian injuries related to the Israeli Palestinian conflict during the month.
The large majority of injuries (309) took place between 13 and 16 May, and occurred within the context of demonstrations commemorating what Palestinians refer to as An Nakba. The protests took place in various parts of the oPt.
In Gaza, the largest demonstration began in the vicinity of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, from which thousands of unarmed demonstrators marched towards the Erez Crossing. Israeli forces opened fire with live ammunition to disperse the protesters, injuring 103 people, including 33 boys. Dozens of other demonstrators, including children and paramedics, suffered from tear gas inhalation. Although Israeli forces fired a number of tank shells at areas about 300 meters from the periphery of the demonstrators in order to stop the march, none were fired directly at the crowd, and no one was injured from these shells.
An Nakba protests and subsequent confrontations also occurred in various parts of the West Bank, with most of the injuries taking place in and around East Jerusalem’s Old City, and in the vicinities of the Qalandiya and Shu’fat checkpoints. These involved stone-throwing by the demonstrators and the firing of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters by Israeli forces.
Overall, over one third of all injuries during the An Nakba protests throughout the oPt resulted from live ammunition fired by Israeli forces. Because the demonstrators were unarmed, and in the Gaza Strip the demonstrations were largely non-violent, the extensive use of live ammunition in controlling these demonstrations has triggered allegations of excessive force used by Israeli forces against the protesters.1
In the West Bank, an additional 28 injuries were recorded during weekly demonstrations that took place outside of the 13-16 May period, against the Barrier, settlement expansion and settler violence.
Of particular concern are indications of excessive use of force by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the village of An Nabi Salih (population approximately 575) in the Ramallah governorate. These demonstrations have been held regularly since December 2009, following persistent attempts by Israeli settlers from Hallamish settlement to take over some 3,000 dunums of land belonging to Palestinians by planting them with various crops and preventing farmers from accessing them as well as their taking control of a nearby spring.
According to the Israeli District Coordination Liaison (DCL) for the Ramallah district, the Israeli army’s main objective for the use of force during these demonstrations is to prevent protesters from blocking Road 465. However, the methods used in An Nabi Salih regularly occur while protesters are still inside the village, far from the road. Measures employed include intensive shooting of tear gas canisters (in several cases directly at the demonstrators), as well as the physical assault of demonstrators.2 Video records of the demonstrations, supported by abundant testimonies of eyewitnesses suggest that, at least in some cases, these measures were used in the absence of any prior stone-throwing or violent behaviour by the demonstrators. Moreover, the DCL has indicated to OCHA staff that the Israeli authorities consider these demonstrations to be illegitimate in and of themselves, as they consider there to be “no solid behind the use of force is to discourage people from reason for the protests”. Together, these various exercising their right to free expression and peaceful factors have raised concerns that the purpose assembly, rather than ensuring law and order.
Foreign spouses of West Bank residents
Following the beginning of the second Intifada, Israel froze the family unification process for West Bank residents and their foreign spouses. Thereafter, there were numerous cases of foreign spouses who entered on tourist visas and continued residing in the West Bank ‘illegally’. In 2007, in a “goodwill gesture,” the Israeli authorities announced that up to 50,000 family unification cases would be examined and approved. According to HaMoked, this quota has not yet been filled. The quota only applies to those foreign spouses who already reside in the West Bank and who had overstayed their visa, and not to those with valid visas or those living abroad who wish to reunite with their families in the West Bank. Therefore, while this quota gives an opportunity to some foreign spouses to legalize their stay, it constitutes an isolated concession: the normal procedure for family unification has not yet been restored.
Food assistance programmes to be suspended due to funding shortfalls
As of the end of May, the 2011 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), with a total request of USD 585.6 million, was only 24 percent funded. In the absence of additional pledges, organizations will be forced to scale back activities in the second half of 2011. Among the possible factors leading to the currently low levels of funding are financial constraints of key donors, resulting in a slower pace of commitments, as well as the shifting of funds towards other parts of the Middle East region affected by violence and growing needs.
While the impact of shortfalls in the CAP is felt across all humanitarian sectors, both in Gaza and the West Bank, the food security sector, which has the highest financial requirements in the CAP, over $204 million, has been among the hardest hit; funding stands at only 20 per cent. Food assistance projects included in the CAP are aimed at improving the living conditions of those affected by food insecurity, which include over half of the households in Gaza and over a fifth of those in the West Bank.
The World Food Programme (WFP), the second largest implementing agency for food assistance, reports that it faces a funding shortfall of USD 27.5 million. The agency has already begun reducing food rations, decreasing the number of families assisted, and borrowing emergency funds from internal sources to maintain current programmes. If funds are not secured in the coming months, one of its key programmes -‘assistance to the destitute’ - which benefits around 218,000 people throughout the oPt, will be suspended. This programme has already been reduced in the West Bank, with beneficiaries receiving smaller quantities of food every three months instead of bi-monthly. The agency has also been forced to suspend school feeding programmes in Gaza, which serve 92,000 school children.
In the absence of new financial commitments, UNRWA, the largest provider of food assistance, will have to implement major cuts. In particular, food assistance to approximately 650,000 of the poorest refugees in the Gaza Strip, including 300,000 refugees living in abject poverty ($1.5 per day per person), will cease as of September 2011. In addition, UNRWA will be forced to cease provision of food assistance to 8,625 refugees who face difficulties accessing food, particularly in Area C and areas between the Barrier and the Green Line, as of 1 October 2011.
A cut in food aid will most probably result in tens of thousands beneficiaries resorting to negative coping mechanisms, such as increasing debt, selling assets and reducing the number of meals taken each week.