The newly-established Humanitarian and Emergency Policy Group (HEPG) in the oPt (EU/EC Chair: Norway/UNSCO; vice-chair: USAID/US/World Bank) held its inaugural meeting on Thursday 12 December. The objectives of the HEPG are to develop and update a coherent donor strategy for the current emergency and consider relevant policy options. The HEPG will report to the Local Aid Coordinating Committee (LACC) members on its findings and will meet fortnightly.
UNRWA held a memorial at its West Bank field office on 13 December, in memory of the UNRWA staff who have lost their lives during the current conflict. In all, six UNRWA staff members have been killed by the IDF in 2002. Two staff members were shot on duty: Kamal Salem while driving in a well lit and marked UN ambulance in Tulkarm; and Iain Hook who was inside the UNRWA compound in Jenin refugee camp. In a meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz in New York on 16 December, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan reiterated that he expected a thorough investigation of Mr. Hook's killing from the Israeli government, and that the United Nations would be provided with a written report. A draft UN Security Council resolution sponsored by Syria, which condemned recent Israeli actions in the oPt, including the killings of UN staff, was defeated on 20 December by the United States casting a no vote and effectively vetoing the text. Twelve countries voted in favour and two abstained.
Pope John Paul II made an appeal on 12 December for free access to Bethlehem during the upcoming Christmas celebrations. The IDF have reported that if the security situation permits they will position their forces in Bethlehem in a manner that allows religious ceremonies celebrating Christmas to take place. The IDF will make its decision in the coming week.
The World Bank approved, on 17 December, US$ 45 million in grants for two projects aimed at delivering essential social and municipal services to Palestinians in the oPt. US$ 25 million will finance equipment, supplies and contracts essential for the continued delivery of basic health, education and welfare services, while US$ 20 million will be used to sustain solid waste collection, electricity, water and wastewater services.
Israel's Coordinator in the Palestinian territories, General Amos Gilad, has told donors he will compensate the UN World Food Program (WFP) for the loss of the food that was destroyed when the IDF demolished a WFP warehouse in Gaza on 30 November. The modalities of the compensation are still being discussed and it is still not yet clear whether the compensation will be in cash or in kind.
Palestinian child deaths are on the increase, according to UNICEF. Since 29 September 2000, more than 450 children under the age of 18 have been killed, including 367 Palestinians, 82 Israelis and 1 foreigner. In 2002, more than 175 Palestinian children were killed in comparison to 98 in 2001. On average, 13 Palestinian children are now killed every month. This significant increase in child deaths, especially in Jenin, Nablus and Rafah, coincides with the beginning of the IDF's operation "Determined Path" in June 2002. Since June at least 92 children have been killed by the IDF.
Curfews & Closure
The curfew regime in the West Bank has now lasted for six months. In total some 1,052,000 Palestinians in 169 localities have been affected, some for only 48 hours and others (e.g. Nablus) for six months continuously.
During this reporting period (9-18 December) curfews were imposed on 35 localities and 541,455 people. The duration under curfew varied from 24 hours to 240 hours out of a possible 240 hours in ten days. On average some 29 localities and 502,300 people were under daily curfew. In addition to the imposed curfews, which in most places were intermittent, movement continued to be restricted by checkpoints, permanent roadblocks and trenches cutting off lines of communication between neighbouring villages and urban centres.