This month, OCHA and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new report highlighting the impact of the Barrier on access of people to health services. While specialized medical treatment for the West Bank population is available mainly at East Jerusalem hospitals, since the completion of the Barrier around the city, patients and staﬀ (except doctors) holding West Bank IDs can reach the hospitals only by crossing one of three Barrier checkpoints, and must go through multiple layers of checks and security procedures. With long delays and overcrowding, crossing the checkpoints is a tiring and often humiliating experience. Similarly, nearly 8,000 people currently residing in the ‘closed military area’ between the Barrier and the Green Line must cross Barrier checkpoints to reach medical services located elsewhere in the West Bank.
For many Palestinians living in the 271 Area C communities in the West Bank, land use restrictions severely undermine access to livelihoods and adequate housing. In July, Israeli authorities stepped up demolitions in several of these communities, displacing or otherwise aﬀecting more than 400 Palestinians.1 Structures demolished included homes, tents, animal shelters, barracks, water cisterns, sanitation units, shops and other commercial enterprises. In one incident, almost the entire Palestinian village of Al Farisiye in the Jordan Valley was displaced.
In July, Israeli authorities informed OCHA of the approval of six of 14 water projects included in the Area C Humanitarian Country Team Response Plan. While this is a welcome step, eight remaining water projects, as well as the education and shelter components of the Plan, urgently need approval to prevent further deterioration of an already fragile situation.
Following the 20 June GoI announcement of the easing of the blockade on Gaza, the volume of imports has increased. However import of construction materials, export of goods, and movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip via Israel remain severely restricted. Additionally, access of farmers to agricultural areas up to 10001500 metres from the perimeter fence, as well as access of ﬁshermen to areas beyond three nautical miles from shore remains restricted; the areas are unclearly demarcated, and access is prevented by means of Israeli military ‘warning ﬁre’. As a result, economic recovery remains stymied, home and infrastructure reconstruction remains stalled, and most of Gaza’s population is isolated from the West Bank.
Despite these constraints, there was a slight improvement in the ability of people needing specialized healthcare unavailable in the Gaza Strip to seek treatment elsewhere. In July, Israeli authorities approved 83 percent of applications for permits by patients referred to hospitals in the West Bank and Israel - the highest rate in the past two years. Additionally, since the Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah Crossing in early June, the rate of patients referred for treatment in Egypt has almost doubled.
Six Palestinians were killed in the oPt in July, and 85 others, including 21 children, were injured in the context of Israeli-Palestinian violence; no Israeli casualties were reported. Gaza saw the highest number of casualties in a single month since the end of the ‘Cast Lead’ oﬀensive. Some of July’s incidents leading to casualties have highlighted concerns over the disregard of basic IHL norms pertaining to the protection of civilians. These include two Israeli military attacks involving the use of ﬂechette projectiles, ammunition that explodes in midair and disperses thousands of metal darts across a wide area, resulting in the killing of two civilians and the injury of ten others, including four children. Meanwhile, Palestinian armed factions continued firing rockets and mortars towards civilian areas in southern Israel, and one rocket hit the city of Ashkelon resulting in some property damage. In contrast, the West Bank, registered the lowest number of Palestinian casualties since December 2009.
West Bank casualties
One Palestinian killed; the lowest number of Palestinian injuries in a given month in 2010
One Palestinian was killed in the West Bank in July, and 41 others (including 11 children) were injured in the context of Israeli-Palestinian violence — the lowest number of Palestinian injuries in the West Bank since December 2009. Two Israeli activists were also injured by Israeli forces during anti-Barrier protests. There were no Israeli casualties perpetrated by Palestinians reported during the month.
On the night of 22 July, Israeli forces opened ﬁre on three Palestinian civilians attempting to enter the Israeli settlement of Barqan (Salﬁt governorate), killing one and injuring another. According to the IDF Spokesperson, one of the Palestinians was suspected of being armed. Palestinian sources dispute the Israeli account, claiming that all three were in fact unarmed and only seeking work in the settlement’s industrial area.
Demonstrations held in the West Bank accounted for 17 of this month’s injuries. Nine of these injuries occurred in protests against the Barrier held in the villages of Ni’lin, Bil’in (Ramallah), and Beit Jala (Bethlehem), and eight injuries occurred in protests against settlement expansion and access restrictions to areas around settlements next to Beit Ummar (Hebron) and ‘Iraq Burin (Nablus). In addition, demolition operations conducted by Israeli forces in Al Lubban al Gharbi (Ramallah) and Hebron City (Hebron) led to clashes with some of the aﬀected or displaced Palestinians, resulting in eight Palestinians being injured.
This month witnessed a total of 24 Israeli settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties or damage to Palestinian property. Nine Palestinians were injured in East Jerusalem (2), Hebron (3), Nablus (3), and Salﬁt (1). An additional five Palestinians were injured in hit-and-run accidents by Israeli settlers in the Hebron and Bethlehem districts.2 Moreover, there were 18 incidents of property damage or vandalism this month, including a number occurring in the context of the “price tag” strategy, where Israeli settlers retaliated for the demolition of two structures by the Israeli Civil Administration in an outpost near Bracha settlement (Nablus). In the most serious incident, Israeli settlers set ﬁre to agricultural land, damaging an area of approximately 2,000 dunums (estimated by Palestinian sources) planted with olive trees and vegetables. In another incident in the same area, settlers set ﬁre to several hundred dunums of Palestinian fields. Since the beginning of the year, OCHA has recorded 167 settler-related incidents leading to Palestinian death, injury or property damage – almost 82 percent greater than the number of incidents (92) that occurred during the equivalent period in 2009.
More than 60 percent of 2010’s demolitions occur in July; 550 Palestinians lose their homes or livelihoods
In the month of July, Israeli authorities signiﬁcantly increased demolitions in East Jerusalem and Area C, forcing approximately 550 Palestinians to lose their homes or sources of livelihood. More than two thirds (140) of this year’s demolitions occurred in July. Structures demolished included homes, tents, animal shelters, barracks, water cisterns, sanitation units, shops and other commercial enterprises. In one incident, almost the entire Palestinian village of Al Farisiye in the Jordan Valley was displaced. So far this year, at least 230 Palestinian structures have been demolished in East Jerusalem and Area C. As a result, more than 1,100 Palestinians, including more than 400 children, have been forcibly displaced or otherwise aﬀected owing to extensive damage of property or destruction of livelihood.
There have also been significant increases in stop-work and demolition orders issued by Israeli authorities in Area C in recent months. According to NGOs providing legal aid to those aﬀected, requests for legal assistance quadrupled in June and July. In a recent submission to the Israeli High Court of Justice, the Civil Administration - the body that carries out demolitions in the West Bank - confirmed that it has received instructions from the Ministry of Defense to step up demolitions of Palestinian structures throughout Area C in the near future.3 Similarly, according to the Israeli media, approval from several governmental bodies, including the Ministry of Interior and the office of the Prime Minister, is required to carry out demolitions in East Jerusalem.
International humanitarian law prohibits the occupying power from the demolition or destruction of private property, unless imperative military reasons so demand. The occupying power is also obliged to administer the territory in a manner that benefits the local civilian population and ensures that their basic needs are met. Likewise, under international human rights law, Israel must ensure that persons under its jurisdiction enjoy fulfillment of their human rights, including the right to housing, health, education, and water.
Area C in Focus: Meeting basic water needs
In January 2010, the HCT issued a response plan to communities in Area C in the areas of water, education and shelter. The plan was sent to the Israeli authorities for approval. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) component of the plan, which was endorsed by the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), consists of 14 projects, which include the establishment of water filling points (7), the rehabilitation of water networks (2) and wells (4), and the provision of communal water storage tanks (1). Those targeted are a population of approximately 52,000 people who are paying more than 20 NIS per cubic meter (compared to 4.5 NIS at source), and/or who have consumption averages of less than 60 liters per person/day (compared to 100 liters recommended by WHO). Proposed projects address only the most urgent needs and constitute less than 10 percent of all WASH projects pending approval of the Israeli authorities.
In a response sent to OCHA on 14 July, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) provided some information regarding projects in the water package of the response plan. According to the ICA, of the seven requests to install water filling points, four have been approved, two are under consideration and one was rejected. Of the four requests to rehabilitate wells, one was approved and already implemented and three were approved ‘in principle’; of the two requests to rehabilitate networks one was approved and one is under consideration.
The ICA’s approval of six of the 14 projects is a welcome first step which, once implemented, will provide much needed relief to the aﬀected communities. However, further delays in the approval of the remaining eight projects will result in further deterioration in humanitarian conditions in Area C. For example, a recent assessment carried out by the UN found that 79 percent of the Palestinian herding population in Area C is food insecure, (as compared to an average of 25 percent for the general population in the West Bank and 61 percent for the Gaza Strip). Additionally, 5.9 percent of surveyed children between the ages of six months and five years suﬀer from acute malnutrition, and 28 percent have stunted growth as a result of nutritional deficiencies. The erosion of herding livelihoods due to lack of access to land and water is a key reason behind the high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.
The Barrier’s impact on Palestinian access to healthcare
On the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the issuance of the ICJ advisory opinion on the legality of the Barrier, OCHA and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint report highlighting the impact of the Barrier on healthcare.6 The Barrier cuts through eight of the West Bank’s eleven governorates, and its intrusive route, along with its associated permit and gate regime, continues to be the single largest obstacle to Palestinian movement within the West Bank.
Although Barrier re-routings in the last year have reconnected a number of communities in the closed military area between the Barrier and the Green Line (the ‘Seam Zone’) to the remainder of the West Bank,7 some 7,800 people still reside within the confines of this area.8 As most service centres are located on the ‘Palestinian’ side of the Barrier, patients living in the ‘Seam Zone’ must pass through Barrier checkpoints to reach hospitals and health centres. Access restrictions to the ‘Seam Zone’ also prevent health professionals and ambulances from entering the closed area to assist those in need of medical care. In addition, due to the limited openings of the agricultural gates along the Barrier, farmers working in the ‘Seam Zone’ could be potentially stranded without medical attention until the next gate-opening in case of a medical emergency.9
The Barrier aﬀects access of all Palestinians holding West Bank IDs to medical services in East Jerusalem. Those needing emergency treatment available only in Jerusalem must obtain permission from the Israeli authorities through the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS). Even when permission is granted, West Bank-plated ambulances are not allowed to enter Jerusalem, and patients seeking to go to hospital must exit ambulances, walk or be carried across the checkpoint, and enter Israeli-plated ambulances on the other side.10 In 2009, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) recorded 440 delays and denials of ambulances throughout the oPt, two thirds of which occurred at Barrier checkpoints accessing Jerusalem.11
As with other West Bank ID holders, hospital employees from the West Bank (excepting doctors), are allowed to access Jerusalem only via three of the 14 Barrier checkpoints around the city. Given that these three checkpoints are the most crowded, this constraint has led to chronic lateness and disruption of hospital activities.
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of Israeli-Palestinian fighting
July exceeds May 2010 to become the highest number of conflict-related Palestinian casualties since the end of Cast Lead
Heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions along Gaza’s perimeter fence have increased concerns of exposure of unarmed civilians to harm as a result of armed activities. This was reflected in the high proportion of civilian casualties from the total: two of the five Palestinians killed were unarmed civilians, as were 39 of the 44 injured (including 10 children).12 Both civilians killed, and more than half of civilians injured (23) were in areas near the Israeli-Gaza border. Since the end of the “Cast Lead” oﬀensive, at least 38 percent of Palestinians killed, and at least 85 percent of those injured, have been unarmed civilians.
Of particular concern is the Israeli army’s use of ﬂechette projectiles in two incidents: on 13 July, a Palestinian woman was killed and three members of her family injured when Israeli tanks fired two ﬂechette projectiles that detonated in the vicinity of her home approximately 400 metres from the fence. In a second incident on 21 July, Israeli forces fired ﬂechette projectiles towards the outskirts of Beit Hanoun, killing two men, including an unarmed civilian, and injuring seven civilians, including four children six to nine years old; five houses and one UNRWA school sustained damage. The Israeli military claimed it was responding to the attempted launch of rockets near the border by armed militants. Incidents involving the use of ﬂechette projectiles are of particularly grave concern as these shells typically explode in midair and indiscriminately disperse thousands of metal darts in a conical arch up to three hundred meters long and about ninety meters wide.
The total number of conflict-related Palestinian casualties in July (49) surpassed those of May 2010 to become the highest number recorded within a single month since February 2009.
Gaza crossings: impact of relaxation on import restrictions limited
Home reconstruction, upgrade of infrastructure, and economic recovery continue to be limited by restrictions on the entry of construction materials, and restrictions on exports. This remains true despite the recent increase in the volume of imports.
Overall, 3,946 truckloads entered the Gaza Strip in July, 53 percent above the monthly average for the first half of 2010 (2,581). However this month’s imports were only 32 percent of the monthly average of truckloads that entered in the first five months of 2007, prior to the imposition of the blockade.
Despite an overall increase in the volume of nonfood items, and the entry of new raw materials, food items continue to make up the majority of imported goods - 60 percent - compared to about 20 percent before June 2007.
Because the easing of the blockade announced by GOI on 20 June does not aﬀect restrictions on exports, the Gaza Strip’s economy remains heavily dependant on domestic demand, which is characterized by the low purchasing power of the population and the relatively small size of the market. Until crossings are open for exports, the impact of new measures on rates of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity will remain low. For example, export markets, primarily in Israel, constituted 90 percent of Gaza’s textile sector market prior to the blockade, according to Chamber of Commerce in Gaza. This sector formerly employed 35,000 people.
Imports of construction materials remain restricted. Under the new measures, such materials are considered ‘dual use’ items, and are only allowed for projects approved by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and supervised by international organizations. As a result, no change is expected in the private sector’s ability to address housing needs, which have increased since the imposition of the blockade, and exacerbated by the destruction of homes during the “Cast Lead” oﬀensive.
This month, Israeli authorities approved a total of 31 new construction projects, including eleven to be administered by the UN. These include eight new schools, and classroom additions at two existing schools, and two health clinics. However, the approved projects are only a small part of what is needed: the value of the approved UN projects (USD 15 million) is only 1.4 percent of the total value of the proposed programme of work for the UN in Gaza (USD 1.05 billion).
So far, approvals have only been given in principle, and follow-up negotiations are required for approval of the detailed list of items, and to establish the entry schedule. Once achieved, a strict monitoring and verification procedure is required by Israeli authorities for each individual imported truckload. This procedure, already implemented for the import of materials for a few ongoing UN projects, has resulted in a significant increase in administrative and operational costs, and has slowed down project implementation. With the current procedures, the implementation of a large number of projects is simply not possible.
Additionally, despite the early-August expansion of Kerem Shalom Crossing, allowing it to handle up to 250 truckloads per day, capacity remains insufficient to allow large scale project implementation. The operation of the Karni Crossing, which was built and equipped to handle over 750 truckloads a day, remains limited to one conveyor belt used for the transfer of grains and construction gravel, while the main elements of the crossing remain closed due to Israeli security concerns.14 UNRWA, for example, has been able to transfer an average of only 30 truckloads of gravel per week through this conveyer belt. At this pace, it would take approximately 15 years to bring in the 24,000 truckloads of aggregate needed to carry out 26 frozen UNRWA projects, and about 75 years to bring in the aggregates needed to implement the whole UNRWA reconstruction plan for Gaza.
Fuel shortages and electricity outages continue
During July, industrial fuel imports required to operate the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) have increased by one-third compared to last month (4.7 vs. 3.53 million litres). Despite this increase, the quantities of fuel that entered this month constituted only 36 percent of the estimated monthly amounts needed to run the power plant at its full capacity. As a result, the majority of the population in Gaza continues to experience power cuts of up to eight hours per day. Power cuts aﬀect daily life in Gaza as well as the provision of essential services, including water supply, sewage removal and treatment, as well as medical treatment. Public institutions providing these services continue to rely extensively on backup generators and other alternative devices, which are vulnerable to breakdown due to inconsistent supply of spare parts.
Medical Referrals Abroad
Israeli authorities approve 83 percent of applications to access hospitals in the West Bank and Israel, the highest rate of approval in two years
Of 947 applications for permits to leave Gaza to Israel and the West Bank through the Erez Crossing submitted to the Israeli authorities in July, 83.3 percent were approved – the highest rate of approval in two years. Of the remaining applications, 6.7 percent
were delayed (i.e., no response was received by the appointment’s date) and 10 percent were rejected. The rate of rejected applications has signiﬁcantly increased since May 2010, at the expense of the rate of delayed applications, which have decreased. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has requested clarifications from the Israeli authorities regarding the increased rejection rate.
Over one third of all referrals were to hospitals in Egypt. The percentage of patients referred to Egypt has doubled following the continuous opening of the Rafah Crossing since the beginning of June. According to the director of the Referral Abroad Department (RAD) in Gaza, many patients ask to be referred to hospitals in Egypt rather than to East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Israel, to avoid frequent permit request denials and delays from Israeli authorities.
Major shipment from Ramallah replenishes Gaza Central Drug Store
The Central Drug Store in Gaza (CDS – Gaza) reported an easing of shortages to some essential drug items due to a shipment of 130 diﬀerent drug items from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, valued at NIS 11 million. Nonetheless, at the end of July, CDS – Gaza reported that 104 of 480 items on the list of essential drugs were depleted to less than one month’s supply. These include eleven chemotherapy drugs and ten antibiotics. One to three-month supplies exist for 71 other essential drugs. In the previous reporting period (end June), 153 essential drugs were depleted to less than a one month supply, and 51 items stood at one to three-month supply levels. Regarding disposables, 101 out of 700 essential items were depleted to less than one month’s supply, and another 58 items were available for one to three months.
Drugs and disposables sent to Gaza with the flotilla in May and June have yet to be received by CDS, and are not included in above figures. WHO is coordinating the delivery of these donations.
UNRWA’s Summer Games - a positive environment for 250,000 children
Thousands of children participate in events to set two world records
As part of the UNRWA-organized Summer Games, 15,000 children gathered to break two Guinness World Records in one week this July. The ‘Great Gaza Global Bounce’ took place on 22 July, and featured 7,500 children meeting in the destroyed Rafah International airport attempting to break the record for the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously (the standing record was just over 3,000). A week later, 7500 children gathered on the beaches of Northern Gaza to double their own world record (set in 2009) for the most kites flown simultaneously. Guinness World Records has yet to ratify the success of these efforts but preliminary results suggest that indeed, both records were doubled.
Pest causes widespread damage to
The Tuta Absoluta (Tomato Leaf Miner) pest continues to devastate tomato crops and threaten livelihoods of thousands of farmers throughout the oPt.15 Areas affected include tomato-growing areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with cases now reported in Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarm, Bethlehem and Hebron. A comprehensive assessment of damage is currently underway by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA); results will be made public once complete.
Approximately 7,500 farming families (43,500 people)16 depend on greenhouse-grown tomatoes for their livelihoods. If not adequately controlled, the pest could spread to crops of sweet peppers, open-field tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines, impacting growers and others dependent on the food-processing industry and grocery business. In addition to the potential economic impact, the crops at risk constitute staple dietary foods in the region raising the risk that the nutritional status of many households in the oPt will be compromised.
The response to this crisis so far has focused on four main areas: coordination; awareness-raising and training; pheromone distribution; and greenhouse repair. Sector stakeholders are already working on the ground to coordinate the response in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
With funding through the Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently implementing a mass-trapping intervention as a rapid response to the outbreak in the Gaza Strip, in partnership with NGOs and the ICRC. Emergency greenhouse repair is also being implemented in the Gaza Strip, with organizations raising or diverting funds to ensure that greenhouses are insect-proof.
Lack of timely additional funding however has meant that there are major gaps in response. At least 1,500 dunums of greenhouses in the Gaza Strip are estimated to urgently need repairs or complete renovations, and Palestinian farmers in the West Bank are in need of pheromones and traps to control infestation.