On 20 June, the Israeli government announced a decision to ease its three-year blockade of Gaza, allowing the unrestricted import of goods intended for civilian use. Other items that Israeli authorities deﬁne as military or dual military/civilian items will remain restricted. Following the announcement, the volume of imports slightly increased, and some previously restricted consumer goods, mostly food and household items, were allowed into Gaza. While the decision is welcome, its humanitarian impact is likely to be limited as two key areas have not been addressed in the decision: restrictions on exports and movement of people. Without exports allowed out of Gaza, the potential economic impact of the partial removal of restrictions on imports will remain limited. Additionally, as most construction materials have been deﬁned as ‘dual use’ items, housing needs are likely to remain largely unmet. Although these materials will be allowed for projects under UN or international supervision, the complexity and high cost of the monitoring requirements by the Israeli authorities make the implementation of a large number of such projects unsustainable.
Meanwhile, due to the blockade and the internal Palestinian rift, the level of services provided to the population of Gaza continued to deteriorate. This was particularly evident this month with regard to Gaza’s healthcare sector. Following a seven-month decline in the amount of industrial fuel entering Gaza resulting from an ongoing funding dispute between the Gaza and Ramallah authorities, power cuts have increased up to 16 hours on some days in some parts of Gaza. Backup generators are incapable of making up for such a large shortfall; consequently, in order to reduce the load on these generators during power cuts, hospitals are forced to suspend or postpone elective surgery, diagnostic procedures and supportive services; sensitive medical equipment is regularly damaged as a result of these cuts. In addition, lack of internal coordination has resulted in the largest shortage of essential drugs at Gaza’s Central Drug Store recorded since the beginning of the blockade in 2007: 114 out of 480 these drugs were out of stock as of the end of the month. While the full impact of these shortages has yet to be assessed, they may result in interruptions to life-saving treatments for cancer and heart disease.
Although the uninterrupted opening of Rafah Crossing since the beginning of the months made it easier for patients to seek specialized medical treatment in Egypt, access to medical facilities in the West Bank, Israel and Jordan continued to be limited by a restrictive permit regime implemented by the Israeli authorities. This month, 21 percent of the applications were either rejected or delayed, an improvement compared to 27 percent in the previous two months. However, while the percentage of delayed applications declined, the percentage of those rejected signiﬁcantly increased from roughly two percent to over 12 percent.
Protection of the civilian population throughout the occupied Palestinian territory continued to be of concern. During June, 15 Palestinians were killed, another 104 Palestinians were injured in the context of Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict, along with one Israeli killed and 21 others injured. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli-Palestinian ﬁghting and other activities along the borders and in sea areas resulted in the highest number of Palestinians fatalities in a single month since February 2009 - eleven Palestinians, including two civilians. Most of the violence and casualties in the West Bank occurred in East Jerusalem. Much of the tension in this area was triggered by current and expected Israeli activities in the neighbourhood of Silwan, including the initial approval, by a local planning body, of a development plan, which entails the demolition of tens of Palestinian buildings to make way for recreational areas and various commercial and residential structures. The possible implementation of this plan could result in the displacement of some 500 residents.
Also of concern are the living conditions of Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank. The annual Movement and Access report release this month by OCHA revealed that while travel times between Palestinian cities and towns have declined due to measures adopted by the Israeli authorities, there was no parallel improvement regarding access to land and rural communities in Area C, particularly in the Jordan Valley. Access restrictions exacerbate the acute water shortage affecting Area C communities, particularly during the summer season, as a result of the lack of water infrastructure and previous years of drought. The water shortage has gradually eroded the herding livelihoods on which most of these communities rely. Humanitarian organizations seeking to address the needs of these vulnerable communities face considerable challenges due to the restrictive permit regime implemented by the Israeli authorities. An emergency response plan, which contains 15 water projects, was submitted to the Israeli authorities on behalf of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in January 2010, however because of Israeli restrictions, none of the projects were implemented as of the end of June.
An additional threat to the agricultural livelihoods of thousands of families throughout the oPt has recently appeared in the form of a pest (named ‘Tuta Absoluta’) causing damage to tomato crops in greenhouses and agricultural ﬁelds. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently leading a collective response plan in the Gaza Strip, while in the West Bank, the Ministry of Agriculture has began to survey damage and provide farmers with relevant information.
While the easing of the blockade in the Gaza Strip and the facilitation of movement between towns and cities in the West Bank are welcome, additional steps are urgently required from the Israeli authorities to improve the humanitarian situation of the most vulnerable throughout the oPt. The opening of the Gaza crossings is necessary for the unrestricted import of constructions materials, for exports, and for the movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank. In the West Bank, access and building restrictions in Area C must be removed, and demolitions of homes in East Jerusalem should be permanently frozen. Additionally, to avoid further deterioration of services provided to Gaza’s population, Hamas and the PA must overcome political differences and improve coordination.
West Bank Casualties
One Palestinian and one Israeli soldier killed; increase in injuries fueled by East Jerusalem tensions
In June, one Palestinian was killed and 88 others were injured in the context of Israeli-Palestinian violence. In addition, one Israeli soldier was killed and 17 other members of Israeli forces were injured; four Israeli settlers were also injured. Although the number of Palestinian injuries in the West Bank increased slightly from the previous month, it remained roughly the same as the average of the previous 12 months.
Violence in East Jerusalem resulted in one Palestinian fatality and over 60 percent of the Palestinian injuries, as well as 57 percent of the Israeli injuries.
This mirrors a similar pattern observed in the ﬁrst half of 2010, during which 55 percent of the Palestinian injuries in the West Bank took place in East Jerusalem, compared to nine percent in 2009. Most of the month’s casualties in this area occurred in clashes surrounding two incidents:
On 11 June, the Israeli police shot and killed a 39-year-old man in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi al Joz. The man was shot while attempting to escape the area on foot, after his vehicle collided with, and lightly injured, two Israeli police oﬃcers. Three Palestinian bystanders, including a 13-year-old girl, were also injured as a result of the shooting. This incident triggered protests, which resulted in one additional injury.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, other settler-related incidents resulted in nine Palestinians being injured. Altogether, OCHA recorded 20 settler incidents in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which resulted in either Palestinian casualties or property damages in June. Since the beginning of the year, OCHA recorded 140 such incidents – almost twice as many incidents as occurred (68) during the equivalent period in 2009. Of note, four of this month’s settler incidents involved Israeli-settlers, who allegedly set ﬁre to 460 dunums of land in the villages of ‘Urif, ‘Einabus, Huwwara (all in Nablus area), and Beit Nuba (in Ramallah). In the case of the latter, 800 to 1000 olive trees were burnt. Fires and vandalism of agricultural land have become increasingly signiﬁcant, undermining the livelihoods of Palestinian communities located in the vicinity of certain Israeli settlements.
Demonstrations held elsewhere in the West Bank2 accounted for 19 Palestinian injuries this month. Protests against the Barrier were held in the villages of Ni’lin, Bil’in, and Beit Jala, and against settlement expansion and access restrictions to areas around settlements in Beit Ummar (Hebron) and Deir Nidham (Ramallah). The latter also resulted in the injury of two members of Israeli forces. Other Israeli casualties included a police oﬃcer who was shot and killed on 14 June by Palestinian gunmen on Road 60 near Al Fawwar refugee camp (Hebron); three other policemen were injured during the attack. Following the incident, the Israeli military imposed a four-hour curfew on two nearby communities (Wadi al Shajneh and Wadi al Hafayer).
Israeli approval of development plan for Al Bustan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem
Hundreds of Palestinians at risk of displacement
In mid-June, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee approved a development plan submitted by the Mayor of Jerusalem for the Al Bustan area of Silwan neighbourhood (East Jerusalem). According to the Israeli authorities the plan would divide Al Bustan area into two sections leading to the demolition of at least 22 Palestinian buildings in the western section to make way for recreational areas and various commercial and residential structures. However, the urban planner assisting the residents disputes the numbers provided by the Municipality, maintaining that the plan’s implementation would in fact require the complete demolition of more than 40 residences, and the partial demolition of at least 13 others, displacing some 500 Palestinian residents.
The municipality has stated the displaced residents would be allowed to relocate elsewhere in the neighborhood. According to the residents’ urban planner, this “solution” is problematic as there is not enough space in the suggested relocation area, the remaining residents are under no obligation to share their property with their neighbours, and many of the remaining structures cannot sustain second or third ﬂoors, without being demolished and rebuilt.
Since 2005, the residents have been working on developing alternative plans that would allow for the development of new infrastructure while avoiding the vast demolitions of the existing buildings; however, their plan was rejected by the municipality in February 2009.
Israel announces easing of the Gaza blockade; impact during June remains limited
On 20 June, the Israeli government announced a decision to ease the blockade on Gaza, which has been in place over the last three years. According to the decision, allowing the unrestricted import of goods intended for civilian use. Other items that Israeli authorities deﬁne as military or dual military/civilian items will remain restricted. Under the new regime, construction materials will only be allowed entry for specific projects approved by the Palestinian Authority and carried out under the supervision of the UN or other international organizations. Further to the decision, the installations of the Kerem Shalom Crossing will be expanded to allow for larger amount of imports, and the operating hours of the conveyor belt operating at the Karni Crossing will be extended.
Full implementation of these measures is expected to proceed in the coming months. In the meantime, in the ten days that followed the announcement there was a slight increase in the volume of imports, along with the entry of a number of previously restricted items.
Overall, a total of 3,166 truckloads entered Gaza during June, a 13 percent increase compared to May (2,795 truckloads). Although this is the highest number of truckloads recorded since March 2009, it constitutes only 23 percent of the monthly average of truckloads that entered Gaza during the ﬁrst ﬁve months of 2007, before the imposition of the blockade.
Although there were some exceptions made, including automotive spare parts and agricultural and ﬁshing materials, new items allowed to enter in June were limited to consumer goods, including all food stuffs, and did not include raw materials. New food items entered in packaging designed for household consumption. Moreover, the entry of new consumer goods, along with the maintenance of restrictions over raw materials, has undermined attempts to boost the local industry. For example, the local beverage industry, which has been unable to import bulk ingredients, is now challenged by the entry of juice and soda drinks from Israel.
With the exception of glass, wood and aluminum (allowed for the commercial market in the past few months), only limited amounts of construction materials designed for three projects carried out by international organizations entered Gaza during June (a total of 88 truckloads). These projects include the repair of Al Quds hospital in Gaza City, the upgrading of a sewage pumping stations in Tel Sultan area (southern Gaza) and the resumption of an UNRWA housing project (151 units) in Khan Younis. The entry of each truckload designed for one of these projects continued to be subject to extensive coordination and monitoring procedures, which have increased administrative costs and significantly slowed down progress. UNRWA, for example, has had to hire over additional 30 guards to supervise the goods from entry to installation, and has had to rent additional warehouses to store the needed items. To reinitiate the previously stalled Khan Younis project, UNRWA has accrued additional expenses of 1.3 million USD.
While the easings announced by the Israeli government are welcome, they are insuﬃcient to meet current needs in Gaza. Even if raw materials are allowed into Gaza without restrictions, economic recovery will remain limited by the ongoing restrictions on exports. The ongoing restrictions on the import of basic construction materials has resulted in unmet housing needs which have increased as a result of the population growth, natural deterioration of housing with time, and the widespread destruction of homes during “Cast Lead”. Although basic construction materials will be allowed for projects supervised by international organizations, the complexity and high cost of the coordination and monitoring mechanisms currently in place, make them unsustainable if applied on a larger scale.
Military activities affecting civilians
Israeli-Palestinian ﬁghting and other activities in border and sea areas result in the highest number in Palestinians killed in Gaza since the end of Cast Lead
June 2010 witnessed the highest number of Palestinians killed in Gaza in a single month due to the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict since February 2009. Fourteen Palestinians, including two civilians, were killed (and two in Israeli airstrikes of underground tunnels) and 16 others, including 14 civilians (three children), were injured. Since February 2009, at least 40 percent of Palestinians killed, and at least 83 percent of those injured, were civilians.6
Although Palestinian rocket ﬁre towards Israel continued at levels similar to those observed during May, there were no Israeli casualties or damages reported.
Fuel crisis deepens: power cuts of up to 16 hours per day
Industrial fuel imports designated for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) continued to decline for the seventh consecutive month, due to an ongoing funding crisis. Only 3.6 million liters of fuel were transferred into Gaza, the lowest levels recorded since December 2008, representing 27 percent of the amount of fuel required to operate the plant at full capacity, (13 million liters per month).
As a result of the shortage in industrial fuel, the GPP was forced to completely shut down for ﬁve days this month, triggering power cuts of 12-16 hours per day throughout the Gaza Strip, except in Rafah which is directly supplied by Egypt and experiences less cuts than the rest of Gaza. During the rest of the month, the GPP continued to run only one of its two operational turbines.
Power cuts affect daily life in Gaza and disrupt the provision of essential services, including water supply, sewage removal and treatment, and health services (see box herein). Public institutions providing these services have to rely extensively on backup generators and other alternative devices, which are extremely vulnerable due to the inconsistent supply of spare parts. WASH Cluster reports that 25 water wells with no standby power generators operate only when there is power. This has led to a 43 percent drop in the water provision throughout the Gaza Strip. Half of Gaza’s population now has access to the water supply only once a week (for the duration of six to eight hours), 30 percent once every four days, and 20 percent every other day.
Medical Referrals Abroad
Infant dies while waiting for referral; significant shift in referral destinations
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 21 percent of the applications for permits to leave Gaza through the Erez crossing, submitted to the Israeli authorities in June, were either denied or delayed; 14 percent of them were for children. Patients who had the applications delayed missed their hospital appointments and had to restart the referral process. Overall, the percentage of denied or delayed applications is power. This has led to a 43 percent drop in the slightly decrease compared to the equivalent ﬁgure water provision throughout the Gaza Strip. Half during the previous two months (27 percent), and of Gaza’s population now has access to the water significantly lower than any month during 2009.
The distribution between denied and delayed application, however, has been changing. For the second consecutive month, over 12 percent of all applications for permits were denied (compared to an average of roughly 2 percent since January 2008) while the percentage of delayed applications has decreased to 8.4 percent, compared to roughly 20 percent in the ﬁrst ﬁve months of 2010.
The daily opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt throughout the month of June, except on Fridays, allowed 1100 patients to access Egyptian hospitals, roughly twice the monthly average during the ﬁrst ﬁve months of the year. The improved access to Egypt has led to a shift in destinations for referrals: referrals to Egyptian hospitals more than doubled in June compared to May (443 vs. 209), whereas referrals to Israeli hospitals decreased by 19.1 percent, and to West Bank hospitals, including those in East Jerusalem by 17.8 percent.
Low levels of essential drugs in Gaza
The lowest stocks of essential drugs at Gaza’s Central Drug Store than at any point since the beginning of the blockade in 2007
Although a new delivery of drugs is currently in process, none were delivered to the Central Drug Store (CDS) in Gaza in June. As a result, stocks essential drugs were depleted to less than one month’s supply. In addition, supplies of 39 other items are only enough to last for one to three months. Among the zero stock drugs are those needed for cancer and heart disease patients and several antibiotics.
Regarding medical disposables, at the end of June the CDS received the second shipment from the MoH in Ramallah in 2010. However, despite this shipment, the CDS zero level stocks for disposables have remained unchanged (84 out of 726 essential items) as at the same time the stock of other items was depleted. Some of the current items out-of-stock are critical for cardiac and neurology patients, (e.g. pacemakers, adults’ cardiac electrodes and oxygen humidiﬁcation chambers for infants) and for diagnostic procedures (e.g. endoscope disposable material).
Civil society under pressure
Local NGOs raided
On 31 May, several local NGOs and associations including Sharik Youth Institution, Bonat Al-Mustaqbal (Future Builders) Society, the South Society for Women’s Health, and the Women and Children Society, were raided by local security forces. The organizations’ offices were closed and some equipment confiscated. Although the oﬃces of Sharek Youth Forum were reopened several days later, and some of their equipment returned, the rest of the affected organizations remain closed.
The Sharek Youth Forum is currently implementing ten projects serving more than 80,000 children and youth from both genders, including 60,000 in UNRWA Summer Games, 9,000 in family centres and educational support programmes, 2,400 in youth camps, 300 university students in “A Step Forward” project, and others participate in youth projects.
Pest causes widespread damage to tomato crops throughout oPt
Thousands of farmers at risk of losing their livelihoods
Tuta Absoluta (Tomato Leaf Miner), a pest that has been causing damage to tomato crops in greenhouses and agricultural ﬁelds in Mediterranean countries, has now reached the oPt. Severe damage was reported in Gaza in early June, and has since been reported in the West Bank. The pest can spread to other vegetable crops (i.e. – potatoes, aubergines, sweet peppers) and is a major threat to the upcoming cultivation season, which begins in August. Consequently, thousands of farmers are at risk of losing their livelihoods, and this could impact the already diﬃcult food security situation for impoverished Palestinian families. The National Plant Protection Organization of Israel confirmed an outbreak of the moth in Israel in December 2009 which is currently being monitored and controlled.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is conducting an assessment in southern Gaza, and so far has found that 50 percent of greenhouses examined had experienced complete destruction of the crop, and a further 30 percent of those examined suffered losses of 25-50 percent of their produce. Affected areas in the Gaza Strip include Al Fukhari, Absaan, Khuza’a, Qizan a Najjar and Al Shoka, Khan Younis and Rafah. In the West Bank, severe devastation of tomato crops has occurred in Qalqiliya and Jenin governorates with moderate damage reported in Tulkarm, and light damage in Bethlehem and Hebron. A further assessment is underway in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in Ramallah has issued a response and contingency plan for the 2010-2011 season. In the Gaza Strip, response is already underway through sector workshops and the formation of a steering committee to guide the rapid and coordinated response required, including repair of greenhouses, mass trapping, and training on simple control measures. Information leaﬂets, as well as a local radio appearance, are helping to raise awareness on identification and control methods.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has secured funding from the Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) for 10,000 pheromone traps and 30,000 doses of pheromones to cover all tomato greenhouses in Gaza for a period of four months. FAO-Gaza is also leading coordination with partners in cooperation with the ICRC, MoA and PNGO. In the West Bank, the MoA has set up 12 committees at the district level to survey damage and distribute ﬂyers. Ministry of Agriculture extension service agents have attended training in identifying and combating Tuta Absoluta, while a sector-wide stakeholder workshop is planned for the West Bank in July before the start of the growing season. As yet, although some funding has been procured for Gaza, there is still no funding a response in the West Bank, and there may be additional resources needed to ensure a longer term and sustainable response.
CAP and HRF Update
The 2010 CAP in the oPt appeals for USD 664.4m – revised to USD 559m at the mid year review point. As of 15 July 2010 funding levels stand at USD 254m or 42 percent of the total.
The percent of funding per sector stands as follows: Agriculture 12 percent (of sector’s total requirements), Cash for Work and Cash Assistance 26 percent, Coordination 69 percent, Education 13 percent, Food Security 57 percent, Health and Nutrition 71 percent, Protection 46 percent, Shelter and NFI 64 percent and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 26 percent
The HRF supported FAO with $250,000 for a project aiming to control the spread of the tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) crop pest which has attacked crops in Gaza. FAO will procure and supply traps to farmers in Gaza to control the pest in an immediate response while working on longer term plan with Ministry of Agriculture.
The HRF balance stands at $6.85 million.