(a) On 11 June WFP Executive Director James Morris began a three-day visit to the Palestinian Territories to review the WFP operation. Humanitarian needs in the Palestinian Territories have been rising sharply alongside the rapidly deteriorating economic situation and unemployment among Palestinians now stands at 67 percent. For the past 12 months, WFP has brought in some 45,000 tons of food to ensure the basic needs of nearly half a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
(b) The security situation in the Palestinian Territories has continued to deteriorate. On 11 May, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) imposed a complete closure of Erez and Kharni access points in Gaza. These closures affected the movement of commodities and prevented entry and exit from the area. The ban on international staff movement was lifted on 18 May. Access in and out of the Gaza Strip was facilitated on 26 May for Palestinians with permissions and all remaining relief workers. Despite this, restrictions on movement of people and vehicles within the Gaza Strip were heightened with additional checkpoints. In the West Bank, the IDF tightened control of vehicles and people passing through checkpoints. An increased insistence by IDF to search UN vehicles at checkpoints delayed field visits.
(c) During May, a total of 2,600 tons of mixed food commodities was distributed to some 24,150 families (128,000 beneficiaries) in Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The purchase of olive oil through the Ministry of Agriculture continued during the month. A total of 106 tons, amounting to 30 percent of the project’s total output, was moved from district warehouses to WFP’s main warehouse in the West Bank and to direct distribution points. An additional 56 tons was tested, certified fit for human consumption and is ready for transport. WFP conducted intense negotiations with the IDF to enable the transport of the locally purchased olive oil from the West Bank into the Gaza Strip. The transport of oil from the various warehouses was hindered due to the restrictions on entering the commodity into Gaza. WFP is still in the process of discussing the matter. In the meantime, the oil is diverted to beneficiaries in the West Bank to ease the bottleneck and avoid further delays in the project’s final implementation phase.
(d) Out of 123 planned WFP field visits to the West Bank and Gaza during May, 103 missions were carried out and 20 were cancelled, 12 for security reasons including access denial, curfew and military activities. A total of 6,239 tons of food commodities arrived in the country during May. The number of WFP containers allowed to enter Gaza has been reduced from 20 to 15 per day due to the closure and restriction policies imposed by the IDF. Accordingly, deliveries of food commodities to the Strip were delayed.
(e) The present Emergency Operation (EMOP) 10190 will end on 30 June. During May, WFP prepared for the next 2003-2004 EMOP (10289) scheduled to begin on the 01 July. The balance of food commodities will be carried over from the present to the new EMOP into July and August. This will enable WFP to distribute food while soliciting new funds.