The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate as the Israeli Defense Force's Operation 'Determined Path' enters its third week. Seven of the eight major West Bank urban centres and adjoining refugee camps (and some villages) are currently re-occupied with an estimated 700,000 - 800,000 persons under curfew. Jenin town & camp have been under curfew since 18 June; Qalqilia since 19 June; Beitunia and Bethlehem since 20 June; Nablus and Tulkarm since 21 June; Ramallah sine 24 June and Hebron since 25 June. All indicators are that the operation will last several weeks, if not months. However, there are reports that the IDF will soon begin easing curfew restrictions to night hours, with daytime curfews imposed on certain places in accordance with 'operational needs and local tensions'.
Cut off from the major urban centres - which provide most educational, health and social services - the remaining West Bank towns and villages (some 700+ localities with approximately 1.4 million residents) are themselves suffering under the tightest closure regime since the current intifada began. Movement for Palestinians between the different localities in the West Bank is now prohibited without special permits. As summer continues, the situation can be expected to become critical in the many West Bank villages which depend on tankered water, due to intensified closures and the dramatic decline in household income.
The closure regime is also severely affecting development projects and emergency services. In a statement released this week by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) - the major international NGO coordination forum - stated that they can no longer adequately fulfil their mandates due to excessive delays at military checkpoints, inconsistent refusal of access to their project sites and beneficiaries, and harassment and severe restrictions on the movements of local as well as international staff.
In Gaza, vehicular movement remains highly restricted. The crossing between Road No. 4 south of Gaza city and the by-pass road to Netzarim settlement has been closed since early May, with traffic diverted through the coastal road. The traffic between the central and southern parts of the Strip is channeled through Abu Houli checkpoint, all other roads being closed, causing long delays. Many areas have become isolated enclaves, most notably Mawasi in the southern Gaza Strip, home to 12,000 Palestinian residents: OCHA is currently coordinating a major survey on how movement restrictions are affecting the living conditions of such exposed communities throughout the Gaza Strip. Currently, only 450 workers are allowed to travel as day labourers into Israel with an additional 3,300 working in the Erez industrial zone.
West Bank localities currently under curfew: starting dates
21 June +: Jenin town & camp, Nablus, Askar camp, Balata camp, Beit Furik, Tulkarm town & camp, Shuweika, Attil, Zeita, Jarushiya, Deir Al-Ghusun, Qalqilia, Beitunia, Bethlehem, Al-Khader, Deheisheh, Beit Jala, Aida camp and Huwarra
22 June +: Doha, Beit Sahour.
23 June +: Abu Deis, Beit Jibrin camp, Beit Wazan, Araqa, Hashimiya, Yamoun, Kufr Rumman, Anabta, Zawata, Al-Funduq, Camp No. 1.
24 June +: Dura, Yatta, Iktaba, Tubas, Ramallah, Tayasir, Tammoun, Aqaba, Amari camp.
25 June +: Hebron, Arraba, Artas.
27 June +: Anin, Al-Bireh, Halhoul, Battir and Eizariya.
28 June : Husan, Nahaleen, Wadi Fuqin
01 July +: Baqa e-Sharqiya, Salfit, Iskaka, Yasouf
02 July +: Mazraa Sharqiya, Silwad
03 July +: Zababdeh, Illar
WFP food assistance will soon cover a total of 500,000 beneficiaries in the West Bank and Gaza including 350,000 persons (70,000 households) classified as hardship cases, 140,000 poor and destitute people - mainly unskilled workers who have been unemployed for over one year - and 10,000 persons in hospitals and social institutions. This week, WFP delivered 70 metric tons of wheat flour and 12 metric tons of oil to Hebron, and 142 metric tons of wheat flour to Gaza.
Since the current uprising began, UNRWA has been providing food aid to approximately 590,000 refugees (127,000 families;) in the Gaza Strip and to 400,000+ refugees, (90,000 families) in the West Bank. UNWRA humanitarian aid distribution continues to be disrupted due to curfews. This week, the Agency delivered 24 tons of flour and 24 tons of sugar to Hebron, in addition to emergency rations to the nearby Arroub and Farwar refugee camps. UNWRA also distributed rations for social hardship cases in Jericho and the villages of al-Auja, Beitunya, Beit Inan and Beit Surik.
The ICRC has expanded its existing food-relief programmes for West Bank villages to cover 30,000 families in addition to a food voucher progrmame for 20,000 families in nine West Bank cities. This week, the ICRC has this week distributed food parcels to 500-600 families in both Hebron and Nablus.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) is still unable to deliver medical supplies without the help of internationals. On 1 July, AIDA members organized a convoy to escort Palestinian Ministry of Health vehicles to villages in the Nablus area, thereby facilitating the distribution of essential medical supplies to local clinics. Despite coordinating in advance with the Israeli authorities, the convoys still encountered long delays at checkpoints. The convoy did succeed in escorting MoH vehicles into the Nablus-area villages of Huwara, Asira and Qabalan.
The curfew and closure regime is having a significant impact on PRCS operations with a significantly increased demand for ambulance services, and people unable to access normal medical services or pharmacies. Ambulances are moving with difficulty and response times to emergency calls have increased significantly. Crews have reported excessive searching of the ambulances - both on the inbound and outbound routes when they are delivering cases to the hospitals, and specific cases IDF attacks of mistreatment of ambulance crews and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's.). PRCS medical consultation and psychological support telephone hotlines continue to receive calls to support the hundreds of families under house arrest and unable to reach medical services.
The water situation is of increasing concern, with reports that several villages in the West Bank are getting less than the required minimum of 15 liters of water per person a day, due to the closure regime. In some cases, the ICRC has had to facilitate access through checkpoints for water deliveries. In the Yatta area, as it is now impossible for tankers to reach the villages, water is being transported to certain villages in jerry cans by donkeys. The price of tankered water has risen, which together with the general fall in purchasing power has lead to a sharp rise in the percentage of total income used to purchase water: up too 11%, preliminary reports suggest.
In Jenin, the assessment of the total damage to housing is finalized, and the work to remove rubble from the camp will start shortly. Reconstruction will take considerable time because of the extent of the devastation and the possible large amount of unexploded ordinance (UXO) in the rubble. Since their arrival, the UN Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) Action Cell has removed some 3247 items, which been buried in 30 cubic meter of concrete, due to lack of alternative possibilities. The EOD team met with the IDF this week in an attempt to reach a better solution.
The destruction of agricultural land continues, with more than 140 dunums of land being bulldozed this week. The destruction was mainly concentrated to the area around the by-pass road to the Gush Katif settlement. In addition to the land destruction, 2 houses in Rafah were destroyed and another 2 damaged. Three Palestinians were killed and 14 wounded this week. As of 4 July, 652 Palestinians have been killed and 9390 have been injured in the Gaza Strip since 29 Sept 2000.
Within the Gaza Strip, Vehicular movement remains highly restricted
The crossing between Road No. 4 south of Gaza city and the by-pass road to Netzarim settlement has been closed since early May, with traffic diverted through the coastal road. The traffic between the central and southern parts of the Strip is channeled through Abu Houli checkpoint, all other roads being closed, causing long delays. Opening hours at the Abu Houli crossing have increased but are still limited, with many hours needed to cross.
In Seafa area, Northern Gaza, approximately 180 Palestinians still live inside a 'security zone' surrounding the Dugit settlement. Dugit has 6-8 settler families living in mobile houses; some 4-6 permanent houses are under construction. Inside the security zone, at least 28 Palestinian houses have been bulldozed, and approximately 300 Palestinians have left the area and are now residing with families, mainly in the densely populated refugee camps. Approximately 800 dunums of farmland have been bulldozed by the IDF, cultivating citrus trees, strawberry fields and various vegetables.
This week, five landowners, whose land has already been bulldozed, received confiscation orders from the IDF, in order to finalize the construction of the electrical fence around the northern block of the settlement. To reach the people still living in the 'security zone', the UN needs to coordinate in advance with the IDF. However, though coordination was arranged for a visit on 27 June 02, UN staff were not allowed access to one of the houses in the area.
Restrictions remain especially tight for the 12,000 residents of the Mawassi area in the southern Gaza Strip. Those under 45 or 50 years of age are often not allowed to leave, with 80 university students prohibited from leaving to take their final exams.
Thousands of Palestinians who worked in Israel and have been unemployed for the past 22 months, demonstrated 2 July in Gaza city, protesting against the closures that prevent them from returning to work in Israel and demanding the creation of an unemployment fund. The number of workers allowed in Israel is now restricted to 500 daily. The Israeli government has announced that they will increase the number of work permits to 5000.
Meetings next week:
10 July 11AM: Health Sector Working Group Meeting
Contact: WHOVenue: UNSCO Meeting Room, Gaza
11 July 12AM: UN Humanitarian Steering Committee; inaugural meeting
Venue: UNWRA, Jerusalem