The restriction on fishermen’s access to sea areas beyond three nautical miles from Gaza’s shore, enforced by the Israeli navy since 2009, has had a severe impact on the livelihoods of Palestinians working in the fishing industry. This sardine season, which came to end this month, recorded a 90 percent decline in the overall catch compared to 2008, before the reduction in the accessible fishing areas. In the past three years, confinement to the allowed areas has led to overfishing and consequently to a depletion of fish breeding grounds in shallow coastal waters, and a reduction in the number of people able to gain a living from fishing activities.
On a more positive note, this month, the Israeli authorities approved 15 new building projects to be implemented by international organizations in Gaza, and allowed the entry of a limited supply of building materials for the reconstruction of ten private sector factories. As this is an exceptional measure, and addresses only a fraction of the overall need for these items, to be transported through legitimate crossings, the continuation of the general ban on the entry of basic building materials into Gaza remains a major problem. This restriction not only impedes the implementation of critical humanitarian projects, but is also the main factor behind tunnel activities, in which thousands of workers risk tjeir lives; This month alone, three Palestinians died while working in the tunnels.
Recurrent cycles of hostilities in the Gaza Strip continue to put civilians at risk. In November the proportion of civilians among all casualties in Gaza (death and injuries combined) was 35 percent compared to 78 percent since the beginning of 2011. While the proportion of civilian casualties is lower than usual, the decline seems to be short lived: in a recent escalation between 8 and 11 December, civilians made up over 90 percent of casualties.
Following the October 2011 prisoner exchange, reports by the media and human rights groups indicate that some of the released prisoners face harassment by Israeli soldiers and death threats from Israeli settler groups. This raises protection concern for civilians affected by these threats and harassment.
Worryingly, humanitarian organizations working to mitigate the suffering of the most vulnerable in oPt, are facing significant funding shortages. Eleven months into 2011, only 55 percent of the Consolidated Appeal (CAP) has been funded, with five clusters (Education, Agriculture, Cash for Work, WASH, and Shelter) still at particularly low funding levels. As a result, organizations have been unable to meet their beneficiary case load. This is further compounded by the restrictions implemented by the Israeli authorities, which reduce the access of staff to, and the implementation of, projects in certain areas.
Until, Israel abides by its obligations under international law to ensure the protection of civilians and guarantee human rights in the oPt, donor support for projects included in the CAP will contribute to mitigating some of the worst effects of Israeli policies on the Palestinian population.
Bedouin and herding communities
increasingly vulnerable in Area C
In November, the Israeli authorities continued to demolish Palestinian-owned structures throughout Area C of the West Bank; at least 40 structures were
demolished, and more than 100 people displaced and some 300 others affected. This is the highest number of people displaced since June 2011 when 219 people lost their homes. The overall increase in Area C demolitions in 2011 has resulted in more than twice as many people in Area C displaced, compared to the same time period in 2010 (923 vs. 393).
As in past months, demolitions disproportionately targeted the already vulnerable Bedouin and herding communities; half of all structures demolished in Area C this month were located in these communities.1 Nearly all of the displaced in Area C in 2011 (92 per cent) have been Bedouin or herders, particularly those living in the Jordan Valley, but also in the areas surrounding Jerusalem.2 Many other communities have pending demolition orders against remaining structures, or have received verbal warnings of demolition from the Israeli authorities. Given the high level of scrutiny paid to some of these communities by the Israeli authorities, some are reluctant even to accept replacement shelters provided by humanitarian agencies in response to previous demolitions, or have dismantled shelters already received, out of fear that the new shelters will prompt yet another wave of demolitions.3
Because of the restrictive zoning and planning regime implement by the Israeli authorities in Area C, Bedouin communities face the near-constant threat of further demolitions, lack basic infrastructure, and their development has been extremely limited.4 While planning for these Palestinian communities has been almost non-existent during the course of Israel’s occupation, plans have been approved for almost all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Many Bedouin and herding communities face attacks by the Israeli civilians living in these settlements, along with settlement outposts, which threaten the physical security and livelihoods of residents. This violence has a range of other negative impacts, including on the psychosocial well-being of residents. In some cases, the regular threat of settler violence has caused the displacement of Palestinians from their community.5 Settler violence also results in the de facto expansion of some settlements, through the takeover of land and other resources.
Bedouin and herding communities also suffer from restrictions limiting their movement and impeding access to large parts of Area C. Access to natural resources, such as water and grazing land, has become increasingly restricted, and herding communities have retreated into more isolated locations, progressively becoming more dependent on purchased fodder and water. This has led to significant loss in livelihoods, and a growing cycle of debt. In some cases, communities have to sell key assets such as livestock, or seek alternative employment. In other instances, affected households limit the amount spent on basic services, such as healthcare or education.6 As community coping mechanisms are gradually exhausted, residents grow more dependent on humanitarian assistance and are at higher risk of being displaced.
Among the most vulnerable Bedouin and herding communities are those located in close proximity to Israeli settlements. These often face more intense restrictions on movement and access, more careful monitoring of building violations, and higher levels of settler violence than do other Area C communities. This year, communities in the vicinity of settlements in the northern Jordan Valley and south Hebron, along with those threatened with forced transfer in the vicinity of several settlements in the eastern Jerusalem periphery, have been among the worst affected in terms of demolitions and the issuance of demolition orders.7
As the occupying power, Israel is responsible under international humanitarian law (IHL) for administering its occupation in a manner that benefits the local Palestinian population. The destruction of civilian property is prohibited unless absolutely required by military necessity. Likewise, under international human rights law, Israel must
ensure that persons under its jurisdiction enjoy fulfillment of their human rights, including the right to be free from discrimination, to effective legal remedies, and an adequate standard of living, housing, health, education, and water. With particular reference to Bedouin communities, international law guarantees that their unique way
of life as indigenous persons must be respected and protected.
As long as the root causes of these communities’ vulnerability remain unaddressed, interventions are needed to support the resilience of these communities, prevent them from sinking deeper into poverty and prevent further displacement. Some 50 such interventions are included as toppriority projects in the 2012 Consolidated Appeal Process. These include urgent humanitarian material support (shelter, water, food aid, fodder, education or basic health services), protective presence initiatives, and psychosocial, planning and legal assistance. Communities have also expressed a clear wish to be part of early recovery and more sustainable development initiatives. These would allow communities to create a vision for their future through self-representation, developing new competencies, and community participation in project design. The communities have suggested some interventions such as: the provision of portable, alternative energy sources, equipment improvements to allow for the marketing of better-quality products, support in accessing markets, and alternative skills training for women and young people.
Worsening Conditions for Two
Bedouin Communities in the
Transfer of Jaljoulia checkpoint to a new authority creates
additional movement restrictions on already vulnerable
Arab ar-Ramadin al-Janubi (300 people) and ‘Arab Abu Farda (100 people) are Bedouin communities located in Area C, in an e enclave between the Barrier and the Green Line, southeast of Qalqiliya City. Since construction of the Barrier began in the area, these two communities, among the most vulnerable ones in the West Bank, have faced progressively worsening movement restrictions. Conditions have deteriorated again since September 2011, when authority over the Jaljoulia Barrier checkpoint, which controls access to the communities, was transferred from the Israeli military to the Crossing Points Authority (CPA).8 Residents of the two communities are now subject to longer, more invasive inspections when entering the enclave.
Most of the residents of Arab ar- Ramadin al-Janubi and ‘Arab Abu Farda are registered Palestine refugees, who were displaced from their homes and lands in the northern Negev area during the 1948 war. In May 2010, with the Israeli authorities’ re-routing of the Barrier in the area, the two communities not only remained isolated, but they also lost access to services that had been previously available (shopping, schools and basic medical aid).9 This forced residents to travel farther and cross a Barrier checkpoint to reach their schools, while the entry of foodstuffs into the enclave (particularly meat and eggs) was subject to significant restrictions.
Since the checkpoint was transferred to the CPA, residents in the community face additional restrictions before reaching their homes.10 While the community used to be able to cross without getting out of their vehicles, passengers now must disembark at the passenger lane, approx 100 metres away from the CP. The driver then takes the vehicle for inspection, which includes the use of search pits and dogs. The driver has to remove all items from the vehicle and place them in a trolley, which is then
taken to an x-ray machine. Following this, CP staff open every bag, bottle and container (including bags of flour, rice, animal fodder, water bottles) and take samples of all items, which are then taken inside a laboratory for testing. Once the check of samples is done, the driver is permitted to re-pack the car, collect his/her ID and collect the other passengers who have passed through the CP. The driver is not allowed entry to the vehicle search area but has to wait outside in the sun. On an average day, the
vehicle searches take 45 minutes – 1 hour, while the pedestrians normally clear within 30 minutes.
The residents note that they have been told that they are only allowed to bring limited quantities of goods through the CP on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, including fuel (maximum 80 liters/family per time – larger quantities require coordination); meat (2-3 kg per family); chicken (2-3 per family); liquids and vegetables (no specific restrictions, but for personal use only); eggs (30 per family). If a family attempts to bring larger quantities, the items have to be left behind or sent back to Qalqiliya. While the CP is open 24 hours per day, the goods have to be brought in by 3pm. On other days, the residents are only allowed to bring very small quantities e.g. a bag of tomatoes.
According to residents, representatives from the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) have approached them in the past and verbally offered to relocate them to an alternative site on the ‘West Bank side’ of the Barrier. While the residents refused to discuss such offers, the suggestion raises concerns, as it comes in the midst of continually deteriorating living conditions, access restrictions, and the threat of demolitions. Virtually all the structures in these communities (mostly shacks and animal pens) have been issued demolition orders due to lack of building permits. In the case of Arab ar-Ramadin al-Janubi, most of the village’s land is formally registered under the residents’ name in the land registry. In past years, this community submitted to the ICA two master plans, which, if approved, could have allowed for the issuance of building permits; however, both plans were rejected on the grounds that they did not meet the required technical standards.
Reports of Harassment of Released
Soldiers raid released prisoners homes, settler groups offer
reward for killing of specific Palestinian prisoners
According to reports by the media and Palestinian human rights groups, a number of former Palestinian prisoners are facing harassment from Israeli soldiers and death threats by Israeli settler groups, following their release in the October 2011 exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas.
Affidavits gathered by the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq, indicate that in November, Israeli forces conducted late night raids to the homes of at least four released prisoners, residing in the Jenin, Qalqiliya and Ramallah governorates.11 In each case, soldiers indicated that the prisoners were being watched and their activities being monitored. Several were threatened with re-arrest and punitive action.12 Two of the released prisoners were issued summons for interrogation.
Also since the release, media reports have indicated that certain settler groups have distributed flyers throughout the West Bank and Israel, as well as online, offering financial rewards for information on the whereabouts, or the killing, of a number of Palestinians, who were convicted of killing Israelis. Some media reports indicate that these ads have forced some released prisoners into hiding.13 On 19 November, a large group of settlers in Hebron attacked the home of a released prisoner, for whom a reward had been offered.14
These events give rise to a number of protection concerns, particularly for the physical safety of the released prisoners and their families. As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for ensuring law and order and protecting the civilian population. However, a key factor underlying continued settler attacks on Palestinians and their property is the atmosphere of impunity surrounding settler violence, with Israeli forces frequently failing to stop attacks while they occur, and over 90 per cent of investigations, into complaints filed by Palestinians, closed without indictment. As of the date of publication, the Israeli authorities have not announced any investigation into, or measures taken against, the settlers’ who have threatened the lives of the released prisoners.
These developments come in the context of the Israeli authorities’ October 2011 release of 477 Palestinian prisoners, in exchange for the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been held by Hamas since June 2006. The exchange was part of an agreement between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Egypt. Over 300 of the released prisoners were serving life sentences. Around 200 of the prisoners were either expelled from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip (approximately 160) or were deported
to Syria, Qatar, Jordan or Turkey (approximately 40). Others faced a range of restrictions on their movement, e.g. house arrest, ban on leaving town and some were required to report regularly to the Israeli authorities. A second, agreed stage of release, of around 550 additional Palestinian prisoners, should take place in the coming period.
The impact of Israeli access
restrictions on Gaza’s fishing areas
on Palestinian livelihoods
Resultant over-fishing in confined spaces causes sardine catch
to decrease by 90 percent since 2008
The Gaza Strip’s three-month sardine season ended in November,15 and according to the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Fisheries, this year’s sardine catch was the lowest recorded in the past 12 years. 2011 will likely also have the lowest records for all fish caught.
According to information obtained by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), from 2009-2011, the average catch during this period, 437 tonnes, was less than a quarter of the average during the previous three years (2006-2008) - 1,817 tonnes.16 In addition, in recent years, sardine catch has consisted of undersized, juvenile fish, caught using nets with smaller mesh.
Access restrictions imposed by the Israeli naval forces on areas beyond three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast are behind the sharp decline since 2009, as fishermen are prevented from reaching the richest shoals found between 5-8 nautical miles from Gaza’s shoreline. The restrictions are enforced with Israeli-fired ‘warning’ shots towards fishing boats that venture beyond the allowed areas. Although these incidents usually end without casualties, since the beginning of 2009, four fishermen have been killed and 17 others have been injured by Israeli gunfire.
The terms of the Oslo agreement stipulated for a fishing zone of 20 nautical miles from Gaza’s shore. However, since the year 2000, when the second Intifada began, the Israeli military has imposed increasing restrictions on fishermen’s access to the sea. In 2002, Israel committed to allow fishing activities in sea areas up to 12 miles from shore (‘Bertini Commitment’); however this was never implemented, and more severe restrictions were subsequently imposed. When the “Cast Lead” offensive began at the end of 2008, the Israeli military announced the prohibition on fishing activities beyond three miles, which has remained in effect through the present.
The shrinking fishing space has resulted in overfishing in shallow coastal waters and consequently the depletion of fish breeding grounds; thousands of fishermen have abandoned the sector. According to the Department of Fisheries, currently there are 3,097 registered fishermen in the Gaza Strip, down from approximately 10,000 fishermen in the year 2000. Approximately half of these fishermen, who as a group have high levels of food insecurity, depend entirely on the biannual sardine season for their income. An additional 2,000 other workers also indirectly depend upon the fishing industry for their livelihoods through the marketing, servicing and maintenance of the fishing vessels. Overall, an estimated 35,000 people depend on the fishing industry as their primary source of income, and are directly affected by the Israeli restrictions on access to the sea.