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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
31 March 2005


HUMANITARIAN UPDATE - MARCH 2005


I. Overview - Deaths and injuries; IDF requisitions orders for Palestinian land
II. Humanitarian Reports - OCHA: 2004 Review of the Humanitarian Situation; B’Tselem and HaMoked: “One Big Prison”
III. Humanitarian Assistance to the oPt - UNICEF: Children of Al-Mawasi; UNRWA: New school for Palestinian children; OPEC: Fund approves US $2 million grant; Japan: assistance for the Palestinians;
IV. Events affecting the humanitarian situation - OCHA: Gaza Strip access; Security transfer; UN: International Women’s Day; PRCS inaugurates two physiotherapy centres
V. Humanitarian monitoring issues - Casualties; Access; Curfews; Demolitions; Land Levelling


I. Overview
In February and March 20051, the number of Palestinian deaths and injuries declined in comparison with the previous four months - October 2004 through January 2005 (see chart below). This decrease follows the 8 February meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh between Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The two met and stated their intentions to try to end the more than four years of violence between the two sides. Since then, there have been no comparatively large-scale Israeli incursions into the occupied Palestinian territory and the major Palestinian militant groups have committed themselves to maintaining a “tahdiya” (calm).




Casualty Trends
October 2004 was the deadliest month for Palestinians since the Israeli operation “Defensive Shield” in April 2002. At least 114 Palestinians were killed during operation “Days of Penitence”, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH). Five Israelis were killed during the same period. An additional 17 Palestinians were killed in Khan Younis during a two-day Israeli operation that began on 24 October 2004. In both Israeli operations, Israeli forces stated that their actions are aimed at stopping Palestinian militant shelling and rocket attacks on nearby Israeli towns that caused Israeli
casualties.

A high number of casualties were also recorded in January with clashes occurring particularly in Gaza. Casualties in February, however, dropped significantly.



2 For more information, see: Humanitarian Briefing Notes at [http:// www.ochaopt.org]


Increase in Palestinian land requisitions December 2004 through March 2005
Initial calculations in March 2005 show that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) requisitions of Palestinian land have increased in the past few months.


II. New Humanitarian Reports
A. OCHA: 2004 Review of the Humanitarian Situation in the oPt
Throughout 2004 violence continued and there was no significant easing of the underlying causes of crisis – closure. Construction of the Barrier continued resulting in further humanitarian hardships, according to an OCHA report titled, “Review of the Humanitarian Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory for 2004”. The report analyzes the UN’s four focus areas of concern: impoverishment and growing dependence on aid, fragmentation of communities and services, assistance to areas of acute needs, and protection of civilians. The report notes that “transition will not be possible unless conflict eases and access both within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and to external areas improves, and conditions are created for normal economic activity.” For more information or to read the full report, see: [http:// www.ochaopt.org]

B. B’Tselem and HaMoked: the Gaza Strip -“One Big Prison”
“Israel has cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world to such an extent that it is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza,” this is one conclusion of a report that B’Tselem and HaMoked, human rights organisations, published in March 2005. The report, “One Big Prison” documents the ongoing violations of human rights and international law resulting from Israel’s restrictions on movement of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Israel and international bodies. For more information or to read the full report, see: [http://www.btselem.org/ or http://www.hamoked.org/]


III. Humanitarian assistance to the oPt
A. UNICEF brings critical supplies to the isolated children of Al-Mawasi
On 30 March 2005, UNICEF began delivery of a series of critical health and sanitation, as well as education, supplies to the isolated children of Al-Mawasi, an enclave in the Gaza Strip. More than 5,000 Palestinians - almost half of which are children - live in Al-Mawasi. For more information,
see: [http:// www.unicef.org/]

B. A new school for Palestinian children
On 30 March 2005, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) inaugurated a renovated UNRWA Elementary School in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. The UNRWA school has been reconstructed during the past 12 months and dilapidated equipment
and facilities have been replaced.

The renovations, made possible through a contribution from the Saudi Fund for Development of approximately US $800,000, increased the number of classrooms from 18 to 25, allowing class sizes to be smaller. The new school will run in two shifts and will serve 2,250 students from Beit Hanoun - both refugees and non-refugees, as there are no PA schools in the area. For more information, see: [http://www.un.org/unrwa/]

C. OPEC Fund approves US $2 million grant to relieve Palestinian hardships
On 15 March 2005, the OPEC Fund for International Development extended a US $2 million grant to help alleviate social and economic hardship among Palestinians affected by the Barrier. The grant will co-finance an initiative that aims to generate employment, boost agricultural productivity and improve access to basic social services among the communities.

D. Japan's assistance for the Palestinians through UNDP and WFP
Japan will implement three projects, totalling about US $1.9 million, through UNDP for Palestinian Authority (PA) reform and improvement of living conditions in the oPt.

The first programme will provide support for development of guidelines for medical waste management in the West Bank and also for capacity building of the Environmental Quality Agency and Ministry of Health of the PA. The other two programmes will provide support for works on reviewing and amending property tax legislation; and for capacity and institution building of the PA.

The government of Japan decided to extend food aid through the World Food Programme; 150 million yen (roughly US $1.38 million) will be for conflict-afflicted people in the occupied Palestinian territory.


IV. Events affecting the humanitarian situation
A. OCHA: Gaza Strip access3
In March 2005, indicators show a steady improvement in movement in and out of the Gaza Strip, although problems still remain with the internal Gaza Strip enclaves: Al Mawasi, Siafa and Al Ma’ani. For example in March, OCHA met residents at Tufah checkpoint who had been waiting for as long as three days to re-enter Al-Mawasi. For more information, see: Gaza Strip Access Reports at [http:// www.ochaopt.org]

B. Security transfer
On 16 March 2005, Israel transferred security control of Jericho to the PA. Later in the month, a transfer of security control also occurred in Tulkarm. In total, the IDF stated its intention to transfer security responsibility to Palestinians forces in five West Bank towns.

C. UN: International Women’s Day
On 8 March 2005, International Women’s Day, 11 UN agencies operating in the oPt called for action for the protection of Palestinian women from their current political, economic and social insecurity. The press release noted that women in the oPt face particular challenges due to the ongoing conflict situation coupled with constraints, including poverty, low political and formal labour force participation and food insecurity. For more information, see: “International Women's Day”, a statement with facts and figures on Palestinian Women at [http:// www.ochaopt.org]

D. PRCS inaugurates two physiotherapy centers in Hebron District
On 15 March 2005, the Palestine Red Crescent Society inaugurated two physiotherapy centers in Ithna and Bani Naim villages in Hebron. These centers will provide physiotherapy and psychosocial services to those in need, particularly children.

V. Humanitarian monitoring issues
Casualties – Between 2 March and 29 March 2005, three Palestinians were killed, and at least 68 were injured. Seventeen Israelis were injured in the same period. One international was also reported injured.

Incidents involving ambulances/medical teams – There were three incidents of an ambulance or medical team being denied access, and 11 reported incidents of delays. There was no incident where shooting/damage to a vehicle was reported.

Curfews – There were at least seven incidents of curfew reported.

Demolitions/people displaced – At least five structures were demolished in the oPt in this reporting period. In addition, 11 demolition orders were issued by the IDF, including 10 to Palestinians in the village of Al Khader, Bethlehem Governorate, for lack of a building permit.

Land levelling and requisitions – Requisition orders for at least 3,557.3 dunums (355.73 hectares) were issued or received; and 224 dunums (22.4 hectares) were confiscated. At least 6 dunums (0.6 hectares) of land were reported levelled. There were additional reports of land levelling, mostly for Barrier construction and new tunnels and roads, where it was not possible to estimate the amount of land involved. More than 416 trees were also reported uprooted. For more details, see Humanitarian Briefing Notes at: [http://www.reliefweb.int/hic-opt/]

Sources: OCHA, FCU, PRCS, UNRWA, IDF, MoFA, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, PCHR, Palestinian DCL, Village Council


Notes

1 Monthly figures reflect casualties collected on a weekly basis from Wednesday through Tuesday; for example, March figures are those occurring from 2 March through 29 March 2005. Figures reflect most accurate reports available to OCHA at time of publication.

2 Figures are based on reports to OCHA that are compiled on a weekly basis and published in Humanitarian Briefing

3 Israel made humanitarian commitments to Catherine Bertini, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s personal humanitarian envoy, during a mission to the region in August 2002. These include, among other concerns, facilitation for health and humanitarian workers, increased number of shipments at Karni crossing and increased permits for Palestinian workers in Israel. Please also see section V below.

This update will be produced regularly by OCHA oPt to highlight the main events and trends of humanitarian developments in the territory. OCHA invites UN agencies, international organisations, NGOs and donors to submit contributions for future issues. An Arabic version will be made available on the OCHA website: [http://www.ochaopt.org/]

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