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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
12 September 2008



OFFICE FOR THE COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
P.O. Box 38712, East Jerusalem, Phone: (+972) 2-582 9962 / 582 5853, Fax: (+972) 2-582 5841 ochaopt@un.org, www.ochaopt.org

Protection of Civilians Weekly Report
3-9 September 2008


Continued strikes in Gaza: Concern for Health and Education Services
On 9 September, Teachers and health professionals in the Gaza Strip have extended their strikes to 16 September. The Palestinian authority in the West Bank denies any involvement in the strikes. However, several human rights groups, including Al Mezan and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, have argued that the West Bank PA supported the strike. Subsequently, the Hamas authorities took measures that include the arrest of dozens of education and health sector employees, as well as threats of dismissal.

Impact of the Health Strike
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 35 percent of MoH hospital employees in Gaza were on strike. However, due to the hiring of short term contractors, eight of twelve MoH hospitals are operating at full capacity. The remaining hospitals are still operating at emergency status, with the percentage of health personnel on strike in Kamal Edwan Hospital decreasing from 71 percent to 45 percent this week. Elective surgeries are suspended, and all outpatient clinics are closed except one—to provide emergency and the diagnostic services. Other hospitals have also reduced elective surgeries. In four districts, 51 percent of primary healthcare centre employees (PHC) abided by the strike. On 3 September, police detained ten medical staff and forced them to abjure their commitment to the strike before releasing them. As the health strikes continue, the Referral Abroad department and Health Coordination Office have been closed since 30 August, resulting in suspension of new application and permit processing for medical treatment outside of Gaza.

Education Strike
Amid threats of dismissal, approximately 60 percent of PA school teachers continued their strike for the third consecutive week in the Gaza Strip. However, with newly hired recruits, teacher attendance increased from 31 percent in the first days of the strike to 95 percent. Student attendance was relatively stable at 80 – 95 percent. On 07 September, the Hamas authorities forcibly dispersed a sit-in strike of teachers organised by an Islamic Jihad affiliated teachers union near the Unknown Soldier statute in Gaza City to protest the deterioration of the educational process in the Gaza Strip. According to UNICEF, the teacher strike has caused significant disruption in 381 PA school, and affected the studies of some 250,000 students.

Gaza Crossings: Increase in overall imports; decrease in fuel supplies From 31 Aug - 06 Sep 08, though the Kerem Shalom crossing remained closed, the number of imported truckloads, including food items, increased from 630 truckloads in the previous reporting period to 916 this week. Though there was a significant increase in the inflow of construction materials—300 truckloads up from 33 previously, gravel accounted for the bulk construction materials imported—231truckloads. During the reporting period, only 49 percent of vehicle diesel and 79 percent of industrial grade diesel required for power plant operation were imported. In the previous reporting period, only 17 percent of petrol and 68 percent of daily cooking gas requirements were imported. For unclear reasons, all Gaza crossings were closed on 5 September.

Political prisoners affiliated with Fatah released in Gaza
On 04 and 08 September the Hamas government released 16 Fatah-affiliated political prisoners (4 and 12, respectively) as a goodwill gesture in honour of the holy month of Ramadan. In addition, 153 criminal prisoners were released as well. However, the governors of Gaza and Khan Younis districts, as well as other senior Fatah leaders, remain in custody.

Military activities affecting civilians
Fifty three children injured in IDF Military operation in Ni’lin
During a military operation on 8 September, clashes erupted when the IDF attempted to open a new road between the Barrier and a road linking Ni’lin and Midya villages. The IDF entered Ni’lin, shot gas canisters into surrounding houses, shops and the Ni’lin Secondary School—where 690 students (and teachers) were attending classes. Fifty school girls were treated for asphyxia and three Palestinian children were injured with rubber coated metal bullets, two of whom were injured above the chest. Two IDF soldiers were reported injured by stones.

IDF search operations
Reported IDF search operations decreased slightly from the previous reporting period (91 searches compared to 94) and reported arrests decreased from 89 to 79. Qalqiliya, Nablus, and Jenin had the highest number of searches (56 searches). During an IDF search operation in the Nablus governorate, the IDF opened fire on an electric transformer, cutting off electricity to Tell village for three hours. West Bank Palestinian Authority forces conducted ten search operations and 21 arrests, all of which took place in the northern West Bank governorates.

On 6 and 7 September, several incidents were reported where IDF patrol boats opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats, forcing them to return to shore. One Palestinian fisherman was injured.

Demolitions in Area C: 60 people displaced, including 36 children On 9 September, the IDF demolished 32 Bedouin and herder structures within Ramallah Governorate, displacing 60 people, including 36 children. The demolitions took place at a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometres from Al Mu’arrajat Road. The Bedouin families have lived in the Mu’arrajat area since 1975. In July 2008, they received demolition orders from the Israeli Civil Administration for allegedly having added extra barracks. On the same day, the IDF and Israeli police demolished a fruit and vegetable stand at Qalandiya checkpoint in East Jerusalem for lack of permit. The stand was the only source of income for six Palestinian families. Since April 2008, this is the second day where Area C demolitions took place. Last month, on 12 August, 29 fruit and vegetable stands in Al Jiftlik village in the Jordan Valley were demolished. At least thirty families were affected.

Access in the West Bank during the
first week of Ramadan
All Moslems between the ages of 16 - 45 were denied free access to prayer at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on the first Friday of Ramadan, as access into Jerusalem was restricted to men over 50 and women over 45 (without permits). Permits were required for men between 45 - 50 and women between 30-45 years of ages. Those allowed into Jerusalem had to pass through the Barrier, and their movement through went relatively smoothly. However, after the Friday prayers started, Qalandiya checkpoint was closed; a few Palestinian youths threw stones at the IDF, who responded with shock grenades. Two bystanders, including a 15 year old child, were injured by shock grenade canisters above the chest.

From September 3 - 10, in the Hebron governorate, the IDF removed nine closures mapped by OCHA, and eased movement at another closure by installing a staffed checkpoint with open gates. At the same time, the IDF closed a gate and erected four new earthmounds. Most of the obstacles removed and erected block access to agricultural areas, except one removed earthmound, which opens access for a small neighborhood with ten families. Three of the removed earth mounds had been flattened by the local community in the past and were now smoothed out by the IDF. Palestinians are finding ways to circumvent the four new installed earthmounds. The “easing” entailed the replacement of a roadblock with a staffed checkpoint and two gates intended to remain open 24 hours for commercial trucks but not private vehicles. This will improve Palestinian commercial access from Hebron to Road 35 — a primary route in the governorate. At the same time, the IDF closed the Farsh El Hawa (Yehuda) gate, which was opened last month for six hours a day for commercial traffic to reach Road 35.

For the fourth consecutive week, there was a slight decrease in the reported number of flying checkpoints. A total of 61 flying checkpoints were reported this week, compared to 62 of the previous week. The highest numbers of flying checkpoints were reported in Bethlehem and Qalqiliya governorates (14 and 9 flying checkpoints, respectively). In the previous month, the overall number of flying checkpoints decreased by approximately 37 percent.

Despite extensions of operating hours of several major checkpoints for the month of Ramadan, the perennial problem of long delays and queues continued at checkpoints in major roads leading to Nablus (Huwwara and Beit Iba), the northern West Bank (Tappuah), the northern Jordan Valley (Tayasir and Hamra), Jerusalem (Qalandiya, and Ar Ram), and the central and southern West Bank (Jericho DCO). The increased operating hours have eased bottlenecked traffic in evenings, but due inadequate lanes, have had little impact on traffic congestion at checkpoints during the day.




Protection of Civilians Weekly Briefing Notes – New Format

Following the change in the format of this report since 9 July 2008, please be informed that detailed information on casualties, house demolitions, settler incidents, curfews, flying checkpoints, search and arrest operations, rockets, mortars and airstrikes, which appeared in the previous format, will be gradually made available in a searchable format on OCHA's website as of 15 August 2008.




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