November marked the 21st anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The convention was later ratified by Israel, which bears primary responsibility for its implementation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Yet, almost two decades after the ratification of the CRC, Palestinian children in the oPt continue to face serious gaps in the exercise of their basic rights.
This month, Palestinian children in East Jerusalem bore the brunt of violence; over two-thirds of all injuries by Israeli forces in the city were under the age of 18. This took place alongside a significant decline in the overall number of Palestinian injuries throughout the West Bank (46) compared to the 2010 monthly average (113). In the Gaza Strip, Israeli air strikes and targeting of people near the perimeter fence with ‘warning fire’ resulted in the injury of 26 civilians, including five children. Of particular concern, since the beginning of 2010, the number of child injuries by Israeli forces in Gaza has increased by 160 percent in comparison to the equivalent period in 2009 (excluding the period of the “Cast Lead” offensive). The majority of children were injured in access restricted areas while collecting rubble to use as building material, as the blockade has prevented the entry of these items in any significant volume.
Additionally, human rights groups have reported a sharp increase in Palestinian children arrested by the Israeli authorities in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem, with children reporting being taken from their homes during nighttime raids and mistreated during interrogation. This month, 60 prominent Israeli educators, doctors, writers, judges, social workers and legislators issued a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister and other political leaders with concerns regarding the ill-treatment of Palestinian children while in custody of Israeli police. As of the end of October, some 256 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli prisons and detention centres.
Forced displacement and the lack of adequate shelter throughout the oPt remain of serious concern for the humanitarian community, in large part due to their significant impact on the development of children. In November, more structures were demolished in East Jerusalem (17) than in any other month this year. Overall, in East Jerusalem and Area C, a three-month upward trend in demolitions continued: the Israeli authorities demolished a total of 34 structures, up from 25 in October and eight in September. As a result, 53 Palestinians were displaced, including 33 children. In the Gaza Strip, over 86,000 housing units are still needed to meet the gap generated due to increased natural growth; the restrictions on the entry of basic construction materials, ongoing since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007. This has resulted in increasing overcrowding and deteriorated living conditions for tens of thousands of families.
In November, the first exports of strawberries and cut flowers (four truckloads) since April 2010 left Gaza. Also, in early December the Israeli government announced that it will allow the export and trade of agricultural products, furniture and textiles from the Gaza Strip to the West bank and foreign markets. These are welcome developments and, if comprehensively and faithfully implemented, will help to improve the level of income among those employed by the relevant industry. Nevertheless, additional steps are needed to more broadly reactivate Gaza’s crippled economy and restore livelihoods to those who, following the imposition of the blockade, joined the ranks of the unemployed and poor. Such steps must include the lifting of the internal access restrictions on land and sea and the removal of restrictions on the import of building materials. Thirty-five percent of Gaza’s agricultural land is currently located in an access-restricted area; the ability to export will mean little for many agricultural producers who are currently unable to safely reach their land. It is estimated that the loss of revenue from this area is $50 million. Similarly, only through lifting the restrictions on building materials can the reconstruction activities vital to re-activating the Gaza economy take place.
Along with the easing of restrictions on the movement of goods to and from Gaza, the movement of persons through the crossings with Israel remains highly restricted; this month, a 24-year-old patient died from kidney failure while waiting for a permit from the Israeli authorities to exit the Gaza Strip for medical treatment
In many areas of the West Bank, internal access restrictions continue to undermine Palestinians’ freedom of movement. This situation is particularly acute in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron (H2); a joint survey carried out by OCHA and the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) indicated that there are 122 closures blocking movement into and within this area. These closures, along with ongoing settler violence, have affected both commercial activities and social life inside the Old City of Hebron; as of 2010, nearly 650 Palestinian shops in the heart of the city have been closed by either the issuance or renewal of military orders and more than 1,000 homes are estimated to have been vacated.
In order to address the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure greater respect for human rights, including the rights of Palestinian children, the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) for the oPt was launched this month with a total of USD 575 million in requested funds. The strategy and projects presented in the 2011 CAP address only a portion of the existing needs in the oPt; many needs require recovery and longer-term solutions within the framework of Palestinian national plans and other strategies, and many more require a resolution of the underlying political conflict.
Decrease in casualties and settler-related violence
Tensions in East Jerusalem remain elevated
The general level of violence in the West Bank decreased significantly in November in comparison with the previous two months, and was 46 percent less than the monthly average (113) of Palestinian injuries during 2010. Sixty-one Palestinians (including 24 children), three members of Israeli security forces, and four Israeli settlers were injured due to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, tensions in East Jerusalem remained high, and accounted for roughly half of the Palestinians injured this month (32), more than two-thirds of whom were children (24 children). Most of those injured (28) were in clashes that took place on 9 and 30 November in the neighborhood of Al ‘Isawiya. On 9 November, the Israeli Police conducted an operation in Al ‘Isawiya; reportedly targeting residents who refuse to pay taxes. Confrontations in the area also took place on 30 November during the course of demolitions carried out by the Jerusalem municipality in the village. (See also demolitions section herein.) In addition, 18 Palestinians and one member of the Israeli security forces1 were injured during weekly demonstrations that took place in the Ramallah governorate against the expansion of the Hallamish settlement (on An Nabi Saleh village lands) and the construction of the Barrier in Ni’lin village.
This month, two reported Israeli-settler related incidents resulted in three Palestinian casualties, and eleven incidents resulted in damage to Palestinian property, roughly half of the monthly average for the rest of 2010. Meanwhile, the number of incidents leading to property damage perpetrated by Palestinians against Israeli settlers has increased in comparison to previous months: there were 15 incidents resulting in property damage, and two leading to injuries. These were approximately double the monthly average for the rest of 2010 (17 incidents vs. nine incidents on average per month). The highest levels of settler violence in 2010 occurred early in the olive harvest season (October), when more than 3,700 olive trees were burned, uprooted, or otherwise vandalized.
Israeli air strikes and access restrictions
result in three deaths and 26 injuries
In November, Israeli forces killed three members of an armed group and injured 26 civilians inside the Gaza Strip. The majority of injuries (18) occurred in incidents along the fence dividing Israel and the Gaza Strip. Injuries in the first 11 months of 2010 were significantly higher than during the parallel period in 2009 (245 vs. 163), excluding casualties during the “Cast Lead” offensive. Over half of the injuries recorded since the beginning of 2010 took place near the fence (143 out of 245).
This month, the Israeli air force launched a number of air strikes, causing the death of three armed Palestinians, the injury of six civilians and damage to a number of houses. In one incident on 3 November, an Israeli air strike targeted and killed an alleged armed man, while he was driving his car inside Gaza City, and injured a female passerby. A similar incident occurred in Gaza City on 17 November, in which an alleged senior member of the “Army of Islam” faction and his brother (also allegedly affiliated with the same faction) were killed. Five other Palestinians, including two children (aged 13 and 2.5), were injured this month when two separate Israeli air strikes hit a house under construction in the Deir Al Balah area and an open field east of Khan Younis. Two additional Palestinian civilians were injured when a mortar shell, fired by armed Palestinians, landed inside the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis.
Incidents along the fence continued to take place due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to areas located up to 1,500 metres from the fence (an area comprising 17 percent of the Gaza Strip’s territory). In a number of separate incidents, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian workers collecting scrap metal near the fence, injuring 17 of them. Another mentally disabled man was injured when he reportedly approached the fence. In the same context, in 12 separate incidents, Israeli forces opened fire at farmers working on their land near the fence; no injuries occurred. Also on 19 occasions, Israeli forces launched incursions with their bulldozers and tanks a few hundred meters into the Gaza Strip and withdrew after conducting land leveling.
On 27 November, Israeli naval forces opened fire at two fishermen in the Beit Lahiya area, injuring both of them. While the Israeli authorities continue to restrict Palestinian fishing activities beyond three nautical miles from the shore, this incident occurred while the fishermen were on land, fishing from shore. In another ten separate incidents, Israeli naval forces opened ‘warning’ fire at Palestinian fishing boats, forcing them ashore. In 2010, Israeli forces have killed three fishermen and injured seven others in incidents related to restrictions on access to fishing areas.
Also this month, two boys (aged 11 and 12) were killed and another one (aged 14) was injured when one of the tunnels, allegedly built for military purposes by Palestinian factions in the Jabaliya area, collapsed. So far in 2010, 46 Palestinians have been killed and 87 have been injured in tunnel-related incidents.
Impact of easing of the Gaza access
regime continues to be limited
Reconstruction continues to be limited by
restrictions on imports of construction materials;
limited exports allowed out
This month, 4,091 truckloads entered Gaza, representing 33 percent of the monthly average of truckloads entered into Gaza each month during the first five months of 2007 (12,350), prior to the imposition of the Gaza blockade.
Although the relaxation of the blockade has resulted in a greater variety of consumer goods available in the market, with consumer items making up the majority (72 percent) of imported goods, ongoing restrictions on basic construction materials, impediments to the movement of people as well as exports, continue to impede both economic revival and a significant improvement in the humanitarian situation. Critically needed housing reconstruction projects and upgrades to damaged infrastructure continue to be limited by restrictions on the entry of basic construction materials, particularly cement, gravel and steel bars. Prior to the blockade, consumer items accounted for no more than 45 percent of all imports, and construction materials made up 55 percent of goods that entered into Gaza.
Due to factors such natural growth and conflict-related damage, more than 86,000 housing units are currently needed for Palestinian families without appropriate housing, and the restrictions make it difficult to fill the gap in needs. In addition, insufficient construction material imports continue to negatively affect access to education: nearly 40,000 new students are unable to attend UNRWA schools, and hundreds of thousands of others continue to attend lessons in overcrowded classrooms.
This month, a limited amount of construction materials was allowed to enter for a number of pre-approved humanitarian projects implemented by international organizations. According to UNRWA, their 26 projects that have been approved, including schools, a health centre, a water and sanitation plant represent only seven percent of the UNRWA’s building plan in Gaza. Of those 26 projects, 13 projects have now had materials delivered. Gaza’s once thriving industries, which used to employ more than 50 percent of the labour force, remain crippled. Over 65 percent of Gaza industries are now closed and the remaining 35 percent are only partially operational. Economic recovery is dependent on rebuilding the economy’s productive capacity and allowing free movement of goods to and from Gaza and the free movement of people.
The majority of the population in Gaza is dependant on aid provided by aid organizations. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 47 percent of the labour force in Gaza is unemployed, and 71 percent is food insecure.
Significant reduction in volume of
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. Operation days of the conveyer belt are limited to two days per week; one day is allocated for the transfer of wheat and animal feed; and the other for gravel for approved international projects. Prior to the 20 June “easing” of the Gaza blockade, wheat and animal feed entered on both days, but since October, because of increased use of the conveyor belt for aggregates, grain imports were limited to one day only per week. A commitment by the Israeli authorities to open the Karni conveyor for a third day per week remains unfulfilled.
The volume of wheat grain allowed into Gaza, therefore, has been significantly reduced, with imports decreasing by around one-quarter in the period from June to October, compared to the previous five months (48,609 vs. 64,273 tonnes). The main constraint is the limited operation of the conveyor belt at Karni.
According to Gaza’s six mills, towards the end of November, there were over 500 truckloads (19,540 tonnes) of wheat delayed in Israel and waiting to enter Gaza. As of 29 November, there were some 3,020 tonnes of grain available at the six mills and 170 tonnes of wheat flour in the local market, quantities that cover the population’s needs for less than six days.
Limited shipments of exports leave
On 28 and 30 November, Israeli authorities allowed four truckloads carrying strawberries (5.7 tonnes) and cut flowers (43,000 stems) to exit the Gaza Strip. These truckloads are the first to leave Gaza since April 2010.
During the 2009-2010 season, only around 50 tonnes of strawberries and only one-third of the 40 million cut flowers intended for export were allowed out, due to the ongoing restrictions on exports and the lack of necessary agricultural inputs. The Gaza Strip has the capacity to export 2,300 tonnes of strawberries and 55 million flowers each season. Since the tightening of the blockade on Gaza in June 2007, only 675 truckloads of exports have left Gaza, all of which were strawberries and cut flowers. By comparison, a monthly average of 1,086 exported truckloads left Gaza in the first five months of 2007, before the tightening.