Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
30 November 2011




The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor

November 2011



November overview


The events of November continued to underscore the extreme vulnerability of certain segments of the Palestinian population in the oPt. Bedouin communities located in Area C of the West Bank are among the most vulnerable groups. More than 90 percent of this month’s 40 demolitions targeted such communities, primarily in the Jordan Valley and in areas surrounding Jerusalem. Because of the Israeli-implemented zoning and planning regime, these communities’ development has been curtailed for decades, their access to basic services as well as natural resources remains highly restricted, and the threat of demolitions of their homes is ever-present. Since the beginning of 2011, more than twice as many people were displaced in Area C due to the demolition of their homes compared to the same period in 2010.

In the Gaza Strip, the access restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, in the context of the blockade, continue to undermine the people’s livelihoods. These include the ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to the West Bank or Israel, which prior to the blockade accounted for 95 percent of Gaza’s exports. With the start of the season for some cash crops, the Israeli authorities allowed the export of four truckloads of strawberries to European markets. This brings the volume of export since the beginning of the year to a total of 190 truckloads, or less than 2 percent of the volume of exports in 2005.

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
Qalqilya area
Transfer of Jaljoulia checkpoint to a new authority creates
additional movement restrictions on already vulnerable
communities

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
Palestinian Prisoners
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.




Israel approves new Gaza projects
The general ban on the import of building materials continues

In November, the Israeli authorities approved 15 new building projects to be implemented by international organizations in the Gaza Strip and allowed the entry of limited quantities of building materials for the reconstruction of ten private sector factories. This occurred amidst the ongoing general ban on the import of basic construction materials, in place since the imposition of the blockade in 2007, and a number of additional physical and administrative constraints impeding progress in the implementation of projects.

Despite the general ban, since the easing of the blockade in June 2010, some international organizations implementing infrastructure projects are eligible for Israeli permits to bring in limited amounts of the restricted building materials. Since then, approximately 160 such projects have been approved, including 15 on 8 November 2011. The latter include ten UNDP infrastructure projects (ranging from street pavement to building of new premises for a university); one project funded by the Swedish government and entailing the development of a facility to prevent the mixing of sewage with rain water at the Jabalia Refugee Camp (submitted in 2009); a Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) project to rehabilitate Al Quds hospital in Gaza City; and a USAID community assistance project.

While these approvals are welcome, dozens of additional projects are waiting approvals for long periods. UNRWA, for example, the largest UN implementing agency, received so far approval for 73 projects worth USD 187.5 million - less than 28 per cent of the cost of its entire work plan for Gaza. Of the remaining projects, thirty nine, worth USD 163 million, were submitted for approval by the Israeli authorities, some of them over a year ago, and are still under review by Israel. These include, among others, three fully funded housing projects entailing the construction of nearly 1,600 shelters. According to shelter sector group, 40,000 new housing units are needed in Gaza, to accommodate the thousands of families who lost their homes during and before the Cast Lead military offensive in 2008, and to meet the natural growth demand.

The delay in the disbursement of funds pledged at the Sharm al Sheikh international donor conference in March 2009 is also a major factor delaying implementation of approved projects. Consequently, of the 73 UNRWA projects approved, implementation of 35 (worth USD 63 million) is yet to begin. All but one of these projects are schools. At present, 94 per cent of UNRWA’s school buildings function on a double-shift basis and the Agency has been forced to use shipping containers as classrooms. Students and teachers attending “container schools” report facing little protection from the elements, particularly high temperatures in the summer, as well as no isolation from external noises, undermining the ability of students to concentrate.

Additionally, the closure of the two main crossings that were used for the import of building materials (Karni and Sufa) prior to the blockade, and the transfer of all cargo operations to Kerem Shalom, have added 10-15 per cent to the costs of the materials, straining even further the already overstretched budget of some agencies.

Also this month, the Israeli authorities allowed into Gaza 177 truckloads of building materials for ten private sector factories, seeking to reconstruct or upgrade their facilities damaged during Israel’s Cast Lead offensive.17 Of these ten factories, six operate in the construction sector, one in the food processing sector and three in the light industries. While this is the first time since October 2008 that materials intended for the private sector are allowed through an Israeli crossing, the amounts involved are negligible when compared to the needs stemming from natural population growth, and from the destruction of property during military operations. The latter is being largely met by materials transferred through the tunnels operating under the border with Egypt, at a high human ‘cost’ in terms of casualties among workers employed in this activity.18

To comply with its obligation under international law and enable Palestinians to address enormous housing and infrastructure needs in a dignified manner, Israel must lift the ongoing ban on the import of building materials.19 The implementation of all projects proposed by international organizations also requires the sustained opening of the Sufa and Karni crossings and the disbursement of funds already committed by donors.


Limited export allowed to European
markets
As the annual export season for authorized cash crops in Gaza has commenced, this month, the Israeli authorities allowed the exit of four truckloads carrying 5.5 tons of strawberries from Gaza to Europe via the Kerem Shalom Crossing. These truckloads are the first to leave Gaza in six months, following the end of the last export season
for cash crops in May 2011. According to Palestinian Agricultural Relief Association (PARC), some 600 tons of strawberries, 370 tons of sweet bell peppers, 160 tons of cherry tomatoes, and 17 million stems of flowers are expected to be authorized by Israel to exit during this season.

Since the beginning of 2011, around 190 truckloads of a limited range of authorized agricultural produce have been allowed out of Gaza, compared to around 5,800 truckloads of a wider range of exports, exported during the same period in 2007 to the West Bank, Israel and to world markets. Under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, signed between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority in 2005, the number of export trucks processed per day via Karni Crossing should reach 400.

Also this month Israel approved the exit of four shipments of furniture from Gaza to the Czech Republic. However, the transaction was canceled as the factory involved in manufacturing the furniture produce was burned down for an unknown reason prior to the day of actual exit.

Citing security reasons Israel continues to restrict exports from Gaza and to prevent Gaza’s products from reaching their traditional markets in Israel and the West Bank. Prior to the imposition of the blockade, the bulk of cash crops, garment and furniture, in addition to other manufactured products, were marketed outside Gaza of which approximately 95 per cent, headed to Israeli and West Bank markets and only five per cent to the rest of the world.
20 The lifting of export restrictions can significantly contribute to the reactivation of the private sector’s productive capacity, and to the reduction of unemployment and food insecurity.


Consolidated Appeals Process
(CAP), 2011 update
As of the current month, the overall funding level for the 2011 CAP stood at USD 296.7 million, or 55 per cent of the total request. Five of the clusters registered particularly low funding levels: Education (29 per cent), Agriculture (38 per cent), Cash for Work (39 per cent), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene or WASH (41 per cent) and Shelter and non-Food items (42 per cent).21 The level of funding for Gaza-specific projects (which made up over 62 per cent of the requests) stood at 46 per cent, compared to 58 per cent funding met for West Bank specific projects. Finally, funding for UN projects (81 per cent of the appeal total) was slightly higher than that of NGO projects: 57 compared to 51 per cent, respectively.

The underfunding has had significant implications for programming across the oPt. Most clusters were unable to provide assistance to their full beneficiary case load. WASH, for example, could not meet its targets for increasing access to safe water in Gaza, while Agriculture provided less than half the amount of fodder and veterinary care assistance it had planned. Some clusters were forced to modify their programs. For instance, some families targeted for cash assistance were instead provided with food parcels, while some food projects in the West Bank reduced their in-kind food ration to enable them to continue distributions.

Problems of underfunding and late arrival of funds were further compounded by restrictive permit regimes and other access restrictions. The Education Cluster was unable to build much needed new classrooms and had limited success in reducing the number of schools operating on double shifts. In other instances, lack of funding was coupled with increased needs. 2011 has seen a rise in demolitions, forced displacement and settler violence, placing increased demand on the Protection Cluster and those who provide emergency livelihoods, shelter, legal and psychosocial assistance to victims.

The global launch of the 2012 CAP will take place on the 14th December 2011 in New York and a local launch of the oPt CAP will take place in the 3rd week of January 2012. In response to the analysis undertaken at the mid-year review, the oPt CAP for 2012 focuses on two strategic objectives: 1) enhancing the protective environment for the most vulnerable communities, including the provision of equitable access to essential services and 2) improving food security.

As in previous CAPs only the most immediate and urgent needs are addressed. The CAP does not attempt to tackle the universe of needs in the oPt, many of which require recovery and longer term solutions. Rather clusters have designed response strategies and related projects for 2012 that aim at improving or stabilizing the living conditions of particularly vulnerable communities until they can be reached by the more robust development programmes. In this way the CAP 2012 complements national and international longer term development strategies expressed in the Palestinian National Development Plan and the UN’s Medium-Term Response Plan.
























Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter