A similar situation exists in East Jerusalem, where the area allocated by municipal regulations for Palestinian development constitutes only 13 percent
– mostly already built up - of the annexed area . Even this small area is being regularly encroached on by Israeli settler groups, which, with state support, take control of property, especially in and around the Old City. This month, the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was demolished to clear way for new settlement housing units, 20 of which have already been approved by the authorities. Areas targeted by settler groups have witnessed the forced eviction of Palestinian families, increasing restrictions on the use of public space, and growing tensions and violence that are disproportionately affecting children.
In the Gaza Strip, some of the main features of Israel’s system of access restrictions remain unchanged, despite the 20 June 2010 easing of the blockade. As a result, the bulk of the population remains vulnerable and aid dependent. In the past seven months, international organizations have received approval for a number of building projects; however, the limited operation of the single facility used for the transfer of gravel (a conveyer belt at the Karni Crossing) has impeded progress in implementing these projects. Consequently, in January, UNWRA was forced to suspend four projects. This facility is expected to shut down sometime in March 2011; while an alternative facility is being developed at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the shift will signiﬁcantly increase transfer costs, adding constraints to the already strained ﬁnancial resources of aid agencies. In the meantime, no progress was achieved in the implementation of an Israeli announcement from 8 December to allow the export of furniture, textiles and agricultural produce. With limited exceptions, the movement of people entering or leaving Gaza through the Erez Crossing remained banned.
Fundamental changes, rather than ad-hoc adjustments, are needed to address the root systemic issues that have contributed to the vulnerability of Palestinian civilians. Measures are needed to ensure greater accountability for the loss of life, provide Palestinians with effective access to land in Area C and East Jerusalem, and secure the free ﬂow of goods and people to and from Gaza, with restrictions being employed on an exceptional basis, when legitimate security needs demand.
Concern over lack of accountability on civilian killings
In January, OCHA recorded the killing of 11 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier in the context of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the oPt.1 Seven of the Palestinian deaths occurred in the West Bank – the largest such ﬁgure in a single month in almost three years. At least eight of the Palestinian fatalities during the month were civilians not aﬃliated with any armed faction. One of them was hit by a rocket ﬁred towards southern Israel by a Palestinian group from Gaza, two were shot by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and ﬁve were killed by Israeli forces in separate incidents.2
While the circumstances surrounding some of these incidents remain unclear or disputed, the special protection granted by international humanitarian law to civilians under military occupation, by itself, warrants a thorough investigation. Moreover, under international human rights law, states are duty bound to investigate allegations of human rights violations and, if the evidence justiﬁes it, to hold accountable those responsible. Such investigations must be prompt, independent, impartial and effective.3
While the Israeli military does carry out investigations into the killing of Palestinian civilians by its forces in the oPt, there is a concern that such investigations do not meet the required standards of promptness, independence, impartiality and effectiveness, leaving room for impunity.
The principal means used by the Israeli army to investigate such cases is an “operational inquiry”. Depending on the ﬁndings of this inquiry, the Military Advocate General (MAG) may decide to order an investigation by the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU), which is the only mechanism that can lead to a prosecution. However, as reported by various Israeli human rights organizations, using the operational inquiry as a basis to determine the need for a criminal investigation is problematic.4 First, the primary purpose of the inquiry is to improve operations in the future – a “lessons learned” exercise, rather than an attempt to identify possible criminal behavior. For this reason, the inquiry relies only on the soldiers’ account of the events, without collecting testimonies from other eyewitnesses. Second, those appointed to conduct the inquiry are often within the chain of command of those directly involved in the incident, and may, therefore, be implicated by the ﬁndings.
Compounding the problem is the fact that once the “operational inquiry” is over, it can take the MAG months, and even years, to decide whether to open a MPIU investigation. Such prolonged delays seriously impair the effectiveness of any investigation that is opened, as by that time it may no longer be possible to perform an autopsy, to collect evidence on the ground, and because eyewitness accounts may be less detailed or reliable.
According to B’Tselem, as of October 2010, of the 148 cases involving the killing of Palestinian civilians between 2006 and 2009 followed up by the organization (excluding cases during the “Cast Lead” offensive), the MAG ordered an MPIU investigation in only 23 cases (15.5 percent), none of which has so far led to an indictment; in 41 cases (28 percent) it was decided not to open an MPIU investigation, and in 84 cases (56.5 percent) the MAG has yet to take a decision.5
Serious concerns also exist regarding law enforcement on Israeli settlers who engage in violence against Palestinians and their property.6 Of particular concern is a lack of suﬃcient follow-up by the Israeli police in investigating complaints that are ﬁled by Palestinians. Yesh Din reports that more than 90 percent of the investigation ﬁles, relating to a variety of settler attacks monitored by the organization, were closed by the Israeli police without ﬁling indictments against the suspects.7
While not bound by speciﬁc treaties, under customary law, an authority exercising government-like functions, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip, also has the duty to take measures to ensure accountability regarding human rights violations. However, available information indicates that the few measures adopted by Hamas to investigate armed groups, regarding the killing of Israeli or Palestinian civilians, including as a result of the launching of rockets, are not “credible and genuine”.8
Uncovering the truth in cases resulting in the loss of civilian life and holding those responsible for unlawful acts accountable are essential steps for protecting the civilian population, and a basic right of victims and their families.
The Shepherd Hotel: continuing settler activity in Palestinian residential areas.
On 9 January, the Israeli authorities demolished part of the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, in preparation for the establishment of new settlement housing units on the site. Originally built in the 1930s, the Shepherd Hotel was expropriated by the Custodian of Absentee Property and transferred to a settler organization in 1985. According to plans submitted to the Jerusalem Municipality, the intention is to build some 90 housing units on the site and at least 20 residential units have already been formally approved.10 The demolition was met with widespread international condemnation.
This development forms part of a wider plan for settlement expansion within Palestinian residential areas, in the so-called ‘Holy Basin’ area of East Jerusalem, comprising the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, At-Tur (Mount of Olives), Wadi Joz, Ras al-‘Amud, and Jabel Mukaber.
Opposite to the Shepherd Hotel is the Karm el Mufti, an olive grove of approximately 40 dunams, which was expropriated by the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property in 1967. The land was subsequently leased to the Ateret Cohanim settler association, which intends to build 250 housing units in the area. In the Karm Al Ja’ouni /Shimon HaTzadik quarter, over 60 Palestinians have been evicted from homes which were subsequently handed over to settler groups. Formal eviction proceedings had been initiated against eight other extended Palestinian families in the area. According to plans submitted to the Jerusalem Municipality, the settlers intend to demolish all 28 Palestinian homes in the area to make way for new settlement housing units on the site.11 In a nearby residential quarter, Kubaniyat Im Haroun, a protracted legal battle came to an end in September 2010 when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of a settler group which claims pre-1948 ownership of the land, increasing the likelihood of the future eviction and displacement of the 200 Palestinians living in this area.
An estimated 2,000 settlers reside in Palestinian neighborhoods in the ‘Holy Basin’ area, in houses which have been expropriated by means of the Absentee Property Law, on the basis of alleged prior Jewish ownership, in buildings purchased from Palestinian owners, and in residences custom-built and ﬁnanced by settler organizations. In addition to this residential presence, settlement activity in these areas is characterized by archaeological activity and the creation of tourist sites and visitor centres, most notably in the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan, where the Elad settler organization conducts guided tours and supervises archaeological excavations in the City of David National Park. There also exists a government-backed initiative to link these settlements together by creating a series of contiguous parks around the ‘Holy Basin’ and the eastern slopes of Mount Scopus (the ‘Open Spaces’ plan).
In the most severe cases – such as in the Old City, Silwan, and most recently in Sheikh Jarrah – settler expropriation has resulted in the loss of property and the eviction of the long-term Palestinian residents. Other humanitarian consequences include restrictions on public space and residential growth for residents of areas which already suffer from severe overcrowding, a lack of housing constructed with the necessary building permits, and from inadequate services. In addition, the close proximity of settler and Palestinian residents, with the added security attendant on a sustained settler presence, magniﬁes the potential for tension and violence: human rights organizations recently reported a sharp increase in the number of children arrested by the Israeli authorities in Silwan, following incidents with settlers and security guards.12
Struggling to survive: background to demolitions in Dkaika13
On 12 January, the Israeli authorities demolished 13 Palestinian-owned structures in the Bedouin community of Dkaika, located in Area C in the Hebron governorate, due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits. The demolitions, which included nine residential tents and a classroom, displaced 50 people, including 30 children, and affected seven others. According to the Israeli organization Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, which has worked closely with the community, since 1998, nearly 40 demolition orders have been issued against structures in Dkaika ; of these, 17 structures have been destroyed, the majority this month.
Dkaika is a community of approximately 300 Palestinians, located near the Green Line and the planned Barrier route in the south Hebron hills. The community, which has resided in the area for decades, is not connected to the electricity grid or water network and is accessed via dirt tracks. Residents, who rely on herding and agriculture (growing wheat and barley) for their livelihood, are refugees who receive regular food assistance from World Food Programme (WFP) or UNRWA; the recent demolitions are likely to increase aid dependency in the community.
According to Bimkom, Dkaika residents have labored for years, unsuccessfully, to be recognized as a community and to have the Israeli Civil Administration undertake planning that meets the community’s needs. At present, planning in Dkaika is governed by a Regional Outline Plan that was approved 70 years ago, during the British Mandate of Palestine. In these plans, the entire south Hebron hills region is a part of the “Judean Desert Zone”, for which there are no planning speciﬁcations; as a result, before residents can apply for a building permit, an outline plan must be developed and approved. Rather than prepare outline plans that would enable the development of communities in the area, the ICA has, instead, drawn a “demarcation line” for a few villages in the region, inside which it allows construction; however, not even this approach was applied to Dkaika. Thus, in order to meet natural growth needs, residents are left with little choice but to build “illegally”.
In 2005, residents, together with the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to annul outstanding demolition orders and mandate the drafting of an outline plan that would pave the way for legal construction. In January 2010, the Court rejected the petition, but indicated that the ICA must consider the plans submitted on behalf of the residents.
In the appeal to the Supreme Court, the State argued that the residents should live within the area of the demarcation plan that was drawn up for the nearest village, Hmeideh, located three kilometres north of Dkaika. This approach was rejected by Dkaika residents as unfeasible, given mutually agreed land possession rights negotiated over the years with other Bedouins in the area. Likewise, the State rejected the request to recognize the community and prepare a plan for the village, so residents were left to develop one on their own.
In June 2010, the residents - together with RHR and Bimkom– began the onerous task of drafting an outline plan for the village, supported by UN humanitarian funding. Concurrently, the ICA consented to freeze 11 outstanding demolition orders,15 until the plan’s submission. However, the ICA subsequently issued new demolition orders against structures in the village. On January 11th 2011, the request for a stay of the demolition orders was dismissed, and on the following day, ICA personnel carried out demolitions in the village.
The planning diﬃculties faced by Dkaika are not unique, as Israel heavily restricts Palestinian development throughout Area C. In practice, the ICA allows Palestinians free construction in less than one percent of Area C, in communities for which the ICA has prepared a detailed, or special, plan, an area much of which is already built-up. In some 70 percent of Area C, approximately 44 percent of the West Bank, construction is prohibited on the grounds that it is “state land,” a “nature reserve,” a closed military area, or part of the municipal area of an Israeli settlement. In the remaining 29 percent, limited Palestinian construction is theoretically permitted, but must conform to the narrow building possibilities allowed by the Mandatory Regional plans. The Israeli authorities’ restrictive interpretation of these plans, however, makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain a permit.
While the ICA has heavily restricted Palestinian construction in Area C, it has established preferential practices for Israeli settlements and settlement outposts, approving detailed plans for almost all Israeli settlements located in the West Bank. Additionally, while settlement outposts – many of which are built on privately owned Palestinian land
– have no approved plans, and thus no building permits, they rarely face the demolition of their structures. According to information provided by the Israeli organization Peace Now, of approximately 100 settlement outposts in the West Bank, six are in the vicinity of Dkeika; all are connected to the water and electricity network, all the structures lack building permits, but there are no masures taken by the Israeli authorities against building violations.
The CDS supplies all MoH hospitals and clinics in Gaza. These health facilities provide 40 percent of Gaza’s primary healthcare and 80 percent of hospital care services. The MoH in Ramallah is responsible for providing drugs to MoH facilities in both the West Bank and Gaza. Since 2007, the percentage of drugs at zero level in Gaza’s CDS grew from an average of 14 percent in 2007 to an average of 24 percent in 2010.
Shortfalls of medical supplies have triggered concerns over the ability of primary health clinics and hospitals inside Gaza to continue delivering some medical services. The impact of the ongoing shortages on patients, however, is diﬃcult to measure, partly because of various coping mechanisms adopted. First, patients approach nonMoH health providers such as NGOs and UNRWA for the drugs they need; several health providers report an increased number of patients asking for drugs, in particular drugs not normally dispensed by their primary health centres. Second, patients buy drugs at their own expense from the private market, or ask family members assistance in buying drugs. For the impoverished population of Gaza, affordability is a major issue.
Following negotiations held between the health authorities in Ramallah and Gaza in late January, the MoH in Ramallah delivered a shipment of drugs to Gaza on 1 February. However, this covered only 81 of the out of stock items. A delivery of medical disposables was expected to be made in the week of 6 February.
The limited operation of the conveyer belt at Karni Crossing during part of this month resulted in a sharp decrease of wheat reserves in Gaza, as well as in the halt of four construction projects (including one scheduled to start this month) by UNWRA, due to a lack of gravel. The wheat shortage was felt primarily during the second and third weeks of January, due to the unexpected closure of the crossing on some scheduled days. While wheat reserves were replenished during the last week of the month, this was achieved at the expense of the transfer of gravel.
The Karni conveyer belt is the only facility allowing the transfer of bulk unpacked items into Gaza -grains (wheat and animal feed) and aggregates (gravel). Citing security concerns, as a rule, the Israeli authorities operate this facility only two days a week, allowing the transfer of a maximum of 240 truckloads per week (half for each commodity type). This limited time allocation has proven insuﬃcient to meet demand for wheat ﬂour and animal feed in the Gaza Strip and signiﬁcantly slowed down progress in the limited number of construction projects approved by the Israeli authorities, following the 20 June easing of the blockade.
During the month, the Israeli authorities conﬁrmed their intention to permanently shut down the conveyer belt at the Karni Crossing. This is expected to occur in March 2011, once the development of alternative capacity at the Kerem Shalom Crossing is completed. This alternative will require the a double “back-to-back” procedure, that is, the unloading and subsequent loading of goods from an Israeli truck to a “sterile” truck (a truck not allowed to leave the crossing area), and thence to a Palestinian truck. The crossing areas that will be allocated to the transfer of aggregates will allow the entry of up to 500 truckloads a week, compared to approximately 120 truckloads currently. Regarding wheat and animal feed, one of the two “back-to-back” transfers will be performed by a small conveyer belt, , with a capacity to handle 150-200 truckloads per week, up from the 120 truckloads currently transferred;17 however, this amount would still be below the weekly requirement of 250 truckloads needed to maintain adequate reserves.
Initial estimates suggest that the additional back-to-back procedures, along with the higher transportation costs due to the more distant location of the Kerem Shalom Crossing, will increase transferring costs by at least 35 percent, compared to the current costs at the Karni Crossing.
Initial estimates suggest that the additional back-to-back procedures, along with the higher transportation costs due to the location of the more distant Kerem Shalom Crossing, will increase transferring costs by at least 35 percent, compared to the current costs at the Karni Crossing.
This has led to concerns that the higher transportation costs, exacerbated by the global rise in wheat prices, may result in a major increase in the prices of wheat ﬂour, making this essential commodity inaccessible to the most vulnerable sectors of society. The increase in costs will also impact on organizations delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza, which are already facing signiﬁcant ﬁnancial constraints due to a decline in funding levels (see box).
For farmers in the oPt, this has led to an incomplete sowing of major traditionally grown rain fed crops , such as wheat and barley. Those who have planted are expecting below normal harvest, with some households considering converting their ﬁelds to pastures. Concerns also exist in the fruit bearing sector, as premature blossoming of certain stone fruit trees (particularly almond) is expected to lead to poor harvest yields for 2011. In the absence of substantial rainfall during February and March, the olive yield will also be affected. It is estimated that some 93,000 families depend on rain-fed crops and orchard trees for their livelihoods.
Already vulnerable herding communities are facing additional hardship due to the reduced rainfall, which decreases the availability of grazing pastures and water levels of cisterns, and increases reliance on expensive fodder and tankered water to sustain ﬂocks.19 Many herders have already reported selling some of their animals to meet these additional expenses. The larger supply in the local market resulted in low livestock prices. Milk and dairy production are also affected by the decrease in quality and quantity of animal feed.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and FAO are monitoring agricultural production in the oPt. Workshops involving farmers’ associations at the governorate level will be held mid February 2011, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the current situation, and inform the implementation of response plans. May/June 2011 is harvest time for rain-fed crops and the blossoming of olive trees. At such a critical period, the humanitarian community should be prepared with appropriate and timely response options.
1. In addition, during January, two Egyptian nationals were killed while trying to illegally enter Israel from Gaza. For details about each of the killings during the month see OCHA’s weekly Protection of Civilians reports covering the month of January.
2. These include: a woman who died in a medical center following inhalation of tear gas ﬁred by Israeli forces during an anti-Barrier protest in the Ramallah area (1 January); two men shot while approaching a checkpoint in the northern West Bank (2 and 8 January); a man shot while sleeping in his bed in the course of an arrest operation in Hebron City (7 January); and a farmer shot while working on his land in the vicinity of the perimeter fence in the Gaza Strip (10 January).
3. The duty to investigate is enshrined, among other sources, in article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and in articles 2 and 6 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
4. See B’Tselem, Void of Responsibility – Israeli Military Police Not to investigate Killinngs of Palestinians by Soldiers, October 2010; Yesh Din, Exceptions – Prosecution of IDF Soldiers during and after the Second Intifada, 2000-2007, September 2008.
5. B’Tselem, ibid, p. 51.
6. See OCHA, Unprotected, Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians and their property, Dec 2008.
7. Yesh Din, Law Enforcement upon Israeli Civilians in the OPT, Data Sheet, July 2008.
8. See for example, Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conﬂict (Goldstone Report), September 2009, p. 509.
9. For further details on this phenomenon see: OCHA and WFP, Between the Fend and the Hard Place - The humanitarian impact of Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to land and sea in the Gaza Strip, August 2010.
10. See Town Planning Schemes 11536 & 2591, cited in Ir Amim, Evictions and Settlement Plans in Sheikh Jarrah: the Case of Shimon HaTzadik, June 2009.
11. This includes at least 200 residential units according to Town Plan Scheme 12705, which was submitted to the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee in January 2008. See Seizing Control of Space in East Jerusalem (M. Margalit, June 2010) and Evictions and Settlement Plans in Sheikh Jarrah: the Case of Shimon HaTzadik (Ir Amim, June 2009).
12. See OCHA, The Humanitarian Monitor, November 2010.
13. This piece is based primarily on input from Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights.
14. Forced displacement has serious immediate and longer-term physical, socio-economic and emotional impacts on Palestinian families and communities. For more information, see OCHA oPt, “Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel to Area C of the West Bank,” December 2009.
15. The demolition orders had been had been mentioned in the petition.
16. For additional details on planning in Area C, Bimkom, “The Prohibited Zone, Israeli Planning Policy in the Palestinian Villages in Area C,” June 2008, and OCHA oPt, “Restricting Space.”
17. According to thhe Israeli authorities, the installation of a larger conveyer belt to be used for the transfer of aggregates is in the planning stages.
18. Ministry of Agriculture Rainfall update, 31 January 2011.
19. For further analysis on the vulnerability of herding communities in Area C see, OCHA Area C Factsheet August 2010.
6. Palestinians in Israeli custody: includes all Palestinians from the oPt held by the Israeli authorities at the end of each month, whether in Israel or in the West Bank, in connection to an offense related to the Israeli occupation and classiﬁed by the Israeli authorities as a “security detainee/prisoner”. Therefore it excludes Palestinians held in connection to a “regular” criminal offense.
7. Administrative detainees: Palestinians held by the Israeli authorities without charge or trial, allegedly for preventive purposes.
8. Structures demolished: includes all Palestinian-owned structures in the oPt demolished by the Israeli authorities, regardless of their speciﬁc use (residential or non-residential) or the grounds on which the demolition was carried out (lack of building permit, military operation or punishment).
9. People displaced due to demolitions: includes all persons that were living in structures demolished by the Israeli authorities, regardless of the place in which they relocated following the demolition.
10. People affected by demolitions: includes all people that beneﬁted from a demolished structure (as a source of income, to receive a service, etc), excluding those displaced.
Access West Bank
11. Permanently staffed checkpoints: staffed by Israeli security personnel, excluding checkpoints located on the Green Line and ‘agricultural gates’ along the Barrier.
12. Partially staffed checkpoints: checkpoint infrastructure staffed on an ad-hoc basis.
13. Unstaffed obstacles: includes roadblocks, earthmounds, earth walls, road gates, road barriers, and trenches. For historical reasons, this ﬁgure excludes obstacles located within the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2).
14. ‘Flying’ or random checkpoints: checkpoints deployed on an ad hoc basis in places without pre-existing infrastructure.
Access to health
15. Applications for permits to leave Gaza through Erez: includes only the applications submitted for travel scheduled within the reporting period.
16. Delayed applications: includes applications regarding which no answer was received by the date of the medical appointment, thus forcing the patient to restart the application process.
Movement of humanitarian staff
17. Incidents of delayed or denied access at a WB checkpoint: includes incidents affecting local or international staff of humanitarian organizations, both UN and international NGOs.
Imports to Gaza
18. Truckloads by type: for historical reasons this ﬁgure excludes truckloads carrying all types of fuel.