Gaza strip: Casualties • Trapped in Gaza: Students unable to leave • Commodities and cooking gas imports • New UN report: Food insecurity in Gaza over 60 percent • Increasing concern over impact of winter weather conditions • Patient referral out of Gaza • Availability of drugs and medical supplies at Central Drug Stores • Accountability initiatives following “Cast Lead” allegations
oPt-wide issues: Child Protection Box • The Committee on the Rights of the Child framework in the oPt • Consolidated Appeals Process and HRF update
Tensions remain high in Sheikh Jarrah as Israeli settler organizations intensify their efforts to take control of land and property and establish a sustained presence in this Palestinian residential neighbourhood. In November, settlers took over the uninhabited part of a Palestinian home in Sheikh Jarrah: although this proved temporary, they returned on 1 December and appear to have established another foothold in the area. In another part of Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian family of four evacuated the house they were renting, following an eviction order issued by the Israeli authorities.
Also in November, the Jerusalem municipality approved the construction of 900 new housing units in Gilo, a settlement established on West Bank land and unilaterally incorporated into the extended Jerusalem municipal boundary and annexed by Israel following the onset of the occupation in June 1967. Of particular concern, East Jerusalem is excluded from the partial, temporary freeze on new settlement construction, which Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, announced in late November.
Concerning access, the Israeli authorities continue to implement measures to improve the freedom of movement between most Palestinian urban centres in the West Bank. However, as demonstrated by OCHA’s November Movement and Access update, Palestinian access to land in large areas of the West Bank, especially the Jordan Valley and the closed areas between the Barrier and the Green Line (the “seam zone”), remains for all intents and purposes off-limits to Palestinian use and development. In addition, Palestinian access to the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2) and East Jerusalem continues to be severely restricted, with the majority of permanently-staffed checkpoints in the West Bank restricting access to these urban centres.
In Gaza, as winter approaches there is increasing concern for the families whose homes were destroyed or damaged as a result of the “Cast Lead” military offensive. The continuing blockade has resulted in negligible reconstruction and repair, as essential materials continue to be denied entry: thousands of families continue to live in homes without window panes or solar panels due to the ban on the import of glass.
The general decline in the amount of goods allowed entry through the official crossings continued during the month, caused in part by the gradual closing of Nahal Oz and the Karni conveyer belt and the increased reliance on Kerem Shalom crossing, which has insufficient capacity, for the passage of all goods. With winter approaching, of particular concern, is the limited quantity of cooking gas allowed entry during the month, approximately 1,200 tons, far below the 5 – 7,000 tons required to meet Gaza’s monthly needs, including for heating and cooking.
Continuing restrictions on access to arable land in the ‘Buffer Zone’ and to fishing areas beyond the current three-nautical-mile limit continue to undermine Gazan livelihoods and contribute to ongoing food insecurity. The damaging extent of food insecurity facing the Gaza population was demonstrated this month in a new UN survey issued in November with findings that over 60 percent of Gaza’s population are currently food insecure and an additional 16 percent are vulnerable to food insecurity. According to the report, food insecurity in the Gaza Strip is primarily due to the high levels of poverty resulting from restrictions imposed by Israel in the course of its blockade, rather than the lack of food in the market.
On 30 November, the 2010 Consolidated Appeal was launched globally in Geneva. United Nations humanitarian agencies, along with international and national non-governmental organizations operating in the oPt, appealed for US $664.4 million to fund 236 humanitarian assistance programmes in 2010. Through the CAP, humanitarian agencies will continue the important work of mitigating the worst impacts of the human dignity crisis facing Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. As many of the events reported above indicate, it is a crisis characterized by the erosion of livelihoods, the denial of basic human rights and a forced dependency on international aid that affects all aspects of the daily life of Palestinians. The residents of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, including those living in areas near Israeli settlements and in Barrier-adjacent areas, have been identified as priority populations in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
From July through October, there had been a four- month upward trend in the number of Palestinians injured in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, by Israeli military and police forces. During September and October, the large increase in casualties was mostly attributable to clashes surrounding tensions related to Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem that occurred during the weeks between 27 September and 25 October. In November, the level of casualties decreased significantly; there were a total of 24 Palestinian injuries in the West Bank by Israeli forces, including 10 children. In addition, seven Israelis, including five Israeli settlers, were injured by Palestinians. The majority of Palestinians (18), as well as two Israeli Border Police, were injured during anti-Barrier demonstrations that occurred in villages of Ni’lin and Bil’in (Ramallah) and Ma’sara (Bethlehem). Also during the month, three Palestinians, including one child, were injured in incidents that occurred in checkpoints in the Hebron governorate.
In November, OCHA recorded 25 settler-related incidents affecting Palestinians and their property, down from 41 in October, resulting in injury to four Palestinians1, compared to 23 last month. In addition, there were eight incidents affecting Israelis and one affecting foreign nationals; these resulted in injury to five Israelis and two internationals.
Israeli settlers from the settlement outpost of Mitzpe Yair (Hebron) physically assaulted a group of Palestinian herders from the community of Khirbet Bir al ‘Idd, south-east of Hebron, injuring one woman. In 1999-2000, some 20 families residing in this community were forced to evacuate their homes and stay with relatives, following repeated attacks from settlers. In November 2009, the residents returned to their homes, upon agreement reached between the Israeli human rights organization Rabbis for Human Rights and the Israeli Civil Administration, following of a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Israeli settlers from Havot Ma’on settlement outpost physically assaulted two female foreign nationals from the Christian Peacemakers Team, who were accompanying a Palestinian family en route to their home in Tuba village (Hebron). Due to the systematic harassment and attacks by Israeli settlers, this group has maintained a presence in this area since 2005, supporting Palestinian access.
In addition to incidents resulting in physical casualties, OCHA recorded a number of incidents involving denied access to Palestinian agricultural and grazing land and damage to olive trees and grape vines. For example, Israeli forces prevented Palestinian farmers from Yasuf village from accessing olive groves (approximately 140 dunums) in the vicinity of Tappuah settlement (Salfit). According to the head of Yasuf village council, despite prior coordination with the Israeli DCL, the soldiers requested the farmers to prove ownership of land, which has also been used by settlers as a herding area.2 In addition, settlers from Efrata settlement uprooted about 70 grape vines belonging to a Palestinian farmer in Al Khader village (Bethlehem) and settlers from Yitzhar settlement uprooted at least 81 olive trees belonging to Palestinians from Burin village (Nablus).
There were a number of incidents where Israeli forces intervened and dispersed settlers from Palestinian areas: for example, in five separate incidents recorded during the week of 4-10 November, Israeli forces intervened and evicted the settlers.3 In general, however, the Israeli authorities have failed to enforce the rule of law on violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The lack of adequate law enforcement and accountability in regard to settler violence has been recurrently pointed out, since the early 1980’s, by official commissions appointed by the Israeli authorities, as well as by human rights organizations.4 The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, which monitors law enforcement on Israeli civilians in the West Bank, reported in November that most of the 69 incidents involving vandalism against Palestinian orchards and trees by settlers, monitored by the organization since 2005, were closed by the Israeli police for lack of evidence or due to “unknown perpetrator”; not a single investigation has led to the indictment of a suspect. Of note, on 1 November the Israeli police arrested an Israeli settler suspected of a number of deadly attacks against Palestinians and Israelis, including the killing of two Palestinians and two Israeli policemen and the injury others, of a time period spanning 12 years.
The IDF reported at least 28 incidents (24 involving stone-throwing and four involving Molotov cocktails), resulting in light injuries to two Israelis and damage to vehicles.5
OCHA oPt report on Israeli settler violence and the evacuation of settlement outposts
During the month, OCHA released a report on Israeli settler violence and the evacuation of settlement outposts.6 The report raises concerns over possible attacks on Palestinian civilians in the context of the “price tag” strategy announced by settlers. The “price tag” strategy is a new pattern of violence that emerged during 2008, in which groups of settlers attempt to exact a “price” against Palestinians and their property in response to attempts by the Israeli authorities to dismantle “unauthorized” settlement outposts. In addition to an overview of incidents recorded by OCHA since 2008, the report identified and mapped Palestinian communities vulnerable to settler violence, under a scenario of a medium to large-scale outpost evacuation. The result is a list of 83 communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 people, distributed across the three regions of the West Bank, identified as being highly or moderately vulnerable. In addition, the report identified 26 road junctions and segments, where movement of Palestinians is likely to be disrupted or blocked.
There were a number of incidents where the Israeli authorities removed buildings in settlement outposts without subsequent attacks on Palestinian communities being reported. During the month, Israeli forces demolished two inhabited houses located in an Israeli outpost near the settlement of Negohot, west of Beit Awwa village (Hebron) and removed seven structures at Maoz Ester outpost (three) and Ramat Migron outpost (four), near the settlements of Kokhav Hashahar and Kokhav Ya’kov, both in the Ramallah area. Two Israeli settlers from the latter outpost were arrested while trying to prevent the soldiers from removing the structures.
East Jerusalem demolitions and evictions continue; no Area c demolitions for fourth consecutive month
Palestinians throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem and Area C, continue to suffer the consequences of the restrictive planning and zoning regimes applied by the Israeli authorities to Palestinian communities.
In East Jerusalem, in November, the Israeli authorities demolished 10 Palestinian-owned structures, including six residential structures, due to lack of building permit, displacing 73 people, including 41 children. Thus far in 2009, OCHA has recorded the demolition of 64 Palestinian-owned structures, including 51 residential structures, in East Jerusalem, displacing 300 Palestinians, including 149 children.11
As reported last month, the Jerusalem municipality may have plans to demolish additional Palestinian structures in the city before the end of the year. During the month, OCHA received reports that the Jerusalem municipality issued 17 demolition orders against houses in the Silwan neighborhood lacking the requisite building permits and at least one of which was subsequently demolished. Eight of the orders affect houses located in Al Bustan area of Silwan, designated by the municipality as a “green” area, where all construction is prohibited. Six of these are renewals of previously-issued orders and two are new orders for extensions to existing houses that have previously received demolition orders. In total, approximately 90 houses in Al Bustan have received demolition orders, placing more than 1,000 Palestinian residents at risk of displacement.
In a press release issued in November, the Jerusalem municipality stated that it is promoting a number of zoning plans currently under consideration by the local and regional planning committees. If approved, these will allow Palestinians to construct more than 5,000 new housing units in various areas of East Jerusalem. Since the annexation of occupied East Jerusalem to Israel, it has been very difficult for Palestinian residents of the city to obtain building permits, leaving many of them with no choice but permits, leaving many of them with no choice but to build “illegally”. Conservative estimates place as many as 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem at risk of having their homes demolished due to “illegal” construction.12
Increased settler activity in Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem is worrying; similar developments in the heart of H2 area of Hebron since the year 2000 resulted in the abandonment of over 1,000 Palestinian homes and the closure of more than 1,800 commercial businesses. OCHA estimates that some 475 Palestinians are at risk of forced eviction, dispossession and displacement due to settler plans in Sheikh Jarrah alone.13
While no demolition of an Area C structure has been recorded since mid-July, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) has continued to distribute stop-work and demolition orders. In November, the ICA reportedly distributed over 65 stopwork and demolition orders against Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, due to lack of permit, threatening to displace at least 120 Palestinians, including 70 children. Also this month, nine eviction orders were delivered for the first time against the residents of a herder community, Ras at Tin, near Al Mughayyir village (Ramallah), to evacuate their dwellings due to their location in a closed military area. The community comprises 16 non-refugee households numbering about 120 people, more than 60 percent of whom are children. The orders affect 21 residences (tent structures) and 20 animal pens, placing 98 persons (81 percent of population), including 67 children, at risk of displacement. The community, which is originally from the Massafer Yatta area of south Hebron, reports that they have been living in the area for 15 years. According to residents, they migrated to the central West Bank in the 1970s due to insufficient vegetation for their herds, and due to harassment because they were living in an area that had been declared closed by the Israeli military. No evictions have yet taken place.
Since 1967, Israel has declared over 20 percent of the West Bank as a closed military zone for training, or “fire” zone. Palestinian presence in these areas is restricted and construction is prohibited by the Israeli authorities. Enforcement of the access restrictions varies and the exact boundaries of the closed area are not clearly demarcated on the ground. Most of the families living in these communities are farmers and herders, many of whom have lived in the areas since before their declaration as closed and who rely on access to land for their livelihoods. These communities represent some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank and are considered priority groups for humanitarian assistance. In 2009, the main target of demolitions in Area C, over 80 percent, has been herding communities residing in these closed military areas; most of these demolitions occurred in the context of the forced eviction of these communities
The planning legislation and institutions, including those authorizing and executing demolition orders, differ between East Jerusalem and Area C. The Jerusalem municipality and Ministry of Interior oversee planning issues, and authorize and oversee the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem. In Area C, the Israeli Civil Administration is responsible for these matters. However, the reality in both areas is quite similar: Palestinian construction in most of these areas is banned and almost automatically criminalized by the Israeli authorities. Also similar in impact of the policy, the most serious of which is the continued displacement of Palestinian families and reduced space for the development of Palestinian communities in the oPt, including East Jerusalem.
ocHA releases new movement and access update
This month, OCHA issued a new movement and access update covering the period between May and October 2009. During this period the Israeli authorities continued to implement measures that increased the freedom of movement of Palestinians between most Palestinian urban centres in the West Bank. However, there has been no parallel improvement regarding access to land and use of space and resources by Palestinians. In particular, Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank has remained, to a large extent, off-limits for Palestinian use and development. Moreover, access of Palestinians to and from areas behind the Barrier, including East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley, as well as within the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2), continued to be severely restricted.
Among other elements, the update includes a breakdown of the 69 permanently staffed checkpoints erected within West Bank territory, listed according to the main characteristics of each checkpoint:
The total number of closure obstacles recorded by OCHA as of the end of November 2009 was 578. This figure includes the 69 permanently staffed checkpoints, 21 “partial checkpoints” (checkpoints staffed on an ad-hoc basis) and 488 unstaffed obstacles (roadblocks, earthmounds, earth walls, road barriers, road gates and trenches).16
Most unstaffed obstacles are designed to channel Palestinian traffic into staffed checkpoints, making the latter a key component of the closure system. However, as a rule, fluctuations in the number of checkpoints are only a partially indicative of trends regarding Palestinian freedom of movement. Indeed, the ability of Palestinians to move across a given checkpoint varies depending on the policy implemented by the Israeli authorities at that checkpoint at any given moment; therefore, movement on a specific area may significantly improve or worsen due to changes in that policy regardless of the overall number of checkpoints. For example, in June 2009, the permit requirement for Palestinian vehicles leaving Nablus through the southern checkpoint (Huwwara) was lifted, thus easing access to and from the city, while the checkpoint itself remained intact. Additionally, given that the checkpoints along the Barrier allow limited access to areas that would be otherwise completely blocked, a decrease in the number of these checkpoints may indicate a deterioration, rather than an improvement, in the freedom of
movement of Palestinians. For example, during September 2009 the Israeli authorities removed a checkpoint (Lazarus) that controlled access to and from a Palestinian community isolated by the Barrier (Ash Shayyah); this removal resulted in inconvenience for the residents, forcing them to make a long detour to access East Jerusalem.
Humanitarian Access in the West Bank
There was a significant drop in access incidents reported by UN Staff in November. This month, UN staff members reported fewer than half the number of access incidents reported in October 2009 (39 vs. 80 incidents). As a result of these incidents, the UN lost 251 staff hours or the equivalent of 31 UN staff days. Compared to the previous month, UN staff members spent 66 percent less time at checkpoints in November (31 vs. 93 staff workdays lost).
In the first half of 2009 there were 542 reported access incidents that have hindered UN Operations, resulting in 3,331 lost staff hours. This is approximately equivalent to the figures for the first half of 2008, but more than the total for all of 2007.
COGAT announces no new work permits granted to foreign workers in oPt The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that B2 tourist visas would be issued in place of B1 work visas for staff of international NGOs (INGOs). Although details of the new policy remain unclear, B2 tourist permit holders are not allowed to work in Israel. As such, COGAT’s announcement is of considerable concern for INGOs working from East Jerusalem. In addition, staff may experience problems accessing some terminals, such as Erez terminal to Gaza, whilst on a B2 permit. Also of concern is that B2 tourist visas are typically valid for three months, and it remains unclear whether foreign workers will be able to exit and enter the country multiple times within that duration.
After five weeks of relative calm, in mid-November, Israeli air strikes against tunnels and factories, and Israeli military incursions, resulted in one Palestinian child killed, and 16 others injured.
The enforcement of access restrictions to the 300-metre-wide so-called “buffer zone” continues to pose a threat to Palestinian civilians, and hinders their use of agricultural land along the border with Israel. In this context, in mid-November, one Palestinian child was killed and another was wounded, when Israeli forces opened fire towards a group of boys in the Juhr Al Deek area, southeast of Gaza City. Afterwards, Israeli forces entered the area and detained four youths, including the injured boy, all of whom were released two days later, except for the injured boy who remains in hospital in Israel. One Palestinian fisherman was injured when Israeli patrol boats opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats in the Rafah area. Since January 09, Israeli naval forces have years restricted the access of Palestinian fishing boats to three nautical miles from the seashore; although in practice have sometimes restricted access to as little as one nautical miles. Fishermen are routinely targeted by fire towards their boats, forcing them ashore.
In addition, Israeli air strikes destroyed a Palestinian industrial factory, a stone-cutting factory, and damaged three houses. In total, air strikes resulted in the injury of 15 Palestinians, including three children. At least six of the wounded were Palestinian tunnel laborers working in Rafah, along the Egyptian border.
Rockets and mortar shells from Gaza continued to be sporadically launched by Palestinian factions towards southern Israel; no Israeli injuries or property damage was reported. According to various media reports, on 21 November, a number of Palestinian armed factions in Gaza declared a unilateral end to all rocket and mortar fire into southern Israel. However, the following day, some of the factions denied the agreement, and on 26 November, five mortar shells were reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Although no Israelis were injured due to rocket-fire, in one incident, three Palestinians were injured when a Palestinian-fired rocket accidentally hit their home; several surrounding homes were also damaged.
Additional Palestinian casualties were recorded in tunnel-related incidents: a total of three people were killed and five others injured while working inside the tunnels as a result of tunnel collapses. Tunnel activity has gradually increased since the beginning of the Israeli blockade on Gaza in June 2007; so far, there have been 49 Palestinians killed in tunnel-related incidents unrelated to Israeli military bombardment.
Also this month, three armed militants were killed when explosive devises pre-maturely detonated. According to the IDF, two of the armed militants were planting a roadside explosive device in an area east of Gaza city. In a separate incident, an explosive device prematurely detonated in a van carrying three militants, affiliated to the Fatah movement, resulting in one fatality; the two others sustained severe burns.
Trapped in Gaza: students unable to leave
There are nearly 750 students in Gaza waiting for permission to leave to pursue their studies abroad. The majority of these students are newly admitted to institutes of higher learning outside of Gaza, but are unable to begin their studies due to the almost complete closure of Erez Crossing with Israel, as well as the Rafah Crossing with Egypt.
Because Israel has prevented Palestinian students from leaving Gaza through Israel for education programmes since June 2007, Gaza students, along with hundreds of other humanitarian-classified cases, are forced to exit through the Rafah crossing, which, although officially closed since June 2007, opens exceptionally 2-3 days each month for humanitarian cases.
In November, the Gaza authorities prepared for the opening of the Rafah crossing between 1 and 3 November. Eight of the 70 buses leaving Gaza to the Egyptian side of the Rafah Crossing were designated for departing students, however, the Egyptian authorities closed the crossing before the student buses’ reached their turn in the queue.