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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
31 May 2011




The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor
May 2011


May Overview

May witnessed the highest number of Palestinians injured (319) during demonstrations and clashes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) since March 2010. The large majority of these injuries took place within the context of demonstrations commemorating the 63rd anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as An Nakba (the catastrophe) of 1948, during which the majority of the Palestinian population became refugees. A concern raised in the context of other demonstrations, particularly those held in the village of An Nabi Salih (Ramallah), in protest of settlement expansion, is that the purpose behind the use of force (and its nature and proportion) is to discourage people from exercising their right to free expression and peaceful assembly.

Some 30 percent of this month’s injuries were children. This has occurred in the context of a worrying increase in the number of child casualties, displacement and incidents leading to disruptions in education since the beginning of this year. Thus far in 2011, twice as many children have been injured per month, on average, compared to 2010. In addition, over four times as many children have been displaced, due to the demolition of their homes, than were displaced during the first five months of 2010.

This month, two development in the access of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip took place. First, the Israeli authorities began operating a new facility at the Kerem Shalom Crossing designated for the transfer of bulk aggregates. This allowed resumption in the entry of aggregates for

approved projects, which had come to a halt in the previous three weeks. While this opening is welcome, the restrictive operational procedures applied at the crossing, in general, and the new facility, in particular, have continued to impede the flow of permitted goods into Gaza. This has taken place in the context of an overall reduction in the crossings’ capacity (less than two-thirds the pre-blockade capacity for imports), alongside a significant increase in costs, since the imposition of the blockade, which followed the gradual closure of three other commercial crossings.

The second development that occurred towards the end of the month is the official reopening of the Rafah border crossing by the Egyptian authorities, nearly four years after it was closed following the take-over of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007. However, lack of clarity on technical issues, as well as disputes between the Egyptian and the Gazan authorities concerning the implementation of the new procedures have disrupted the functioning of the crossing and the actual benefit of the change in policy for Gazan civilians is uncertain.

An additional major concern highlighted this month is the lack of a secure legal status affecting many Palestinians. Documents disclosed in early May by the Israeli government reveal that, as much as, 140,000 West Bank residents were stripped of their residency status between 1967 and 1994. While some of those whose status was revoked were later allowed to return, the vast majority were not. Many others are currently at risk of being deported, prevented from returning to their homes, or living separated from their families due to their lack of a secure status. The groups that face the greatest risk are East Jerusalem ID holders who reside outside the city, Gaza residents who live in the West Bank, and the spouses of Palestinians and foreign nationals who live in the West Bank.

Given the poor humanitarian situation affecting large segments of the oPt population, there is considerable concern over the significant shortfall in humanitarian funding for the oPt. As of the end of May, the 2011 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), with a total request of USD 585.6 million, was only 24 percent funded. In the absence of additional pledges, organizations will be forced to scale back activities in the second half of 2011. While the impact of shortfalls in the CAP is felt across all humanitarian sectors, the food security sector, which has the highest financial requirements at over $204 million, is among the most affected. If funds are not secured in the coming months, both UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP), the two largest providers of food assistance, will have to implement major cuts to their food assistance projects, affecting hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. The agency has also been forced to suspend school feeding programmes in Gaza, which serve 92,000 school children.

It is in the context of the abovementioned concerns and gaps that UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos carried out her first official mission to the oPt between 14 and 17 May. Over the course of her visit, which included a range of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials and field visits in the oPt and Israel, Ms. Amos called for a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, an end to forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, a suspension of the demolition of Palestinian homes, schools and other structures; and, underscored the importance of civilians being protected from violence. She also reaffirmed the United Nations’ commitment to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood, sovereignty and freedom from occupation.

Concerns of excessive force used against Palestinian protesters

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Palestinian right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression undermined in the oPt

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The month of May witnessed the highest number of casualties from demonstrations and clashes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) since March 2010: a total of 319 Palestinians, including 96 children, were injured in this context, constituting 83 percent of the overall number of Palestinian injuries related to the Israeli Palestinian conflict during the month.

The large majority of injuries (309) took place between 13 and 16 May, and occurred within the context of demonstrations commemorating what Palestinians refer to as An Nakba. The protests took place in various parts of the oPt.

In Gaza, the largest demonstration began in the vicinity of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, from which thousands of unarmed demonstrators marched towards the Erez Crossing. Israeli forces opened fire with live ammunition to disperse the protesters, injuring 103 people, including 33 boys. Dozens of other demonstrators, including children and paramedics, suffered from tear gas inhalation. Although Israeli forces fired a number of tank shells at areas about 300 meters from the periphery of the demonstrators in order to stop the march, none were fired directly at the crowd, and no one was injured from these shells.

An Nakba protests and subsequent confrontations also occurred in various parts of the West Bank, with most of the injuries taking place in and around East Jerusalem’s Old City, and in the vicinities of the Qalandiya and Shu’fat checkpoints. These involved stone-throwing by the demonstrators and the firing of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters by Israeli forces.

Overall, over one third of all injuries during the An Nakba protests throughout the oPt resulted from live ammunition fired by Israeli forces. Because the demonstrators were unarmed, and in the Gaza Strip the demonstrations were largely non-violent, the extensive use of live ammunition in controlling these demonstrations has triggered allegations of excessive force used by Israeli forces against the protesters.1

In the West Bank, an additional 28 injuries were recorded during weekly demonstrations that took place outside of the 13-16 May period, against the Barrier, settlement expansion and settler violence.

Of particular concern are indications of excessive use of force by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the village of An Nabi Salih (population approximately 575) in the Ramallah governorate. These demonstrations have been held regularly since December 2009, following persistent attempts by Israeli settlers from Hallamish settlement to take over some 3,000 dunums of land belonging to Palestinians by planting them with various crops and preventing farmers from accessing them as well as their taking control of a nearby spring.

According to the Israeli District Coordination Liaison (DCL) for the Ramallah district, the Israeli army’s main objective for the use of force during these demonstrations is to prevent protesters from blocking Road 465. However, the methods used in An Nabi Salih regularly occur while protesters are still inside the village, far from the road. Measures employed include intensive shooting of tear gas canisters (in several cases directly at the demonstrators), as well as the physical assault of demonstrators.2 Video records of the demonstrations, supported by abundant testimonies of eyewitnesses suggest that, at least in some cases, these measures were used in the absence of any prior stone-throwing or violent behaviour by the demonstrators. Moreover, the DCL has indicated to OCHA staff that the Israeli authorities consider these demonstrations to be illegitimate in and of themselves, as they consider there to be “no solid behind the use of force is to discourage people from reason for the protests”. Together, these various exercising their right to free expression and peaceful factors have raised concerns that the purpose assembly, rather than ensuring law and order.

    Beaten and blindfolded: testimony of an arrested woman in An Nabi Saleh village
    Eqbal, 45 years old, is a mother of four (three sons and one daughter) who was arrested and assaulted during one of this month’s demonstrations. All of her children have been affected by ongoing protests: her oldest son, aged 24, was sentenced to 14 months in prison for allegedly participating in the weekly demonstrations and stone throwing toward Israeli soldiers. Her second son, 14 years old, has been under house arrest since the beginning of April 2011; and, since his confinement he has been unable to go to school. Her third son, 11 years old, was injured with rubber-coated metal bullet that hit his neck in November 2010 and was also detained by Israeli soldiers for one night due to stone throwing. Eqbal’s 21-year-old daughter was injured twice: in December 2010 a tear gas canister struck her directly in her leg, resulting in two fractures. Last month, (April 2011) she was again struck by a tear gas canister, this time in her head.

    ‘On 13 May, just before the Friday prayer, I needed something from the local shop, but my husband was not home. So, I asked one my relatives, a young boy, to fetch what I needed. At the time, because of the Nakba day demonstrations, Israeli troops were inside the village. An Israeli female soldier came to us and provoked the child. When she attempted to assault him, I held out my hand and made a sign for her to stop. When I did that, a number of Israeli soldiers surrounded me; one of them hit me in the face, and took off my Hijab (head scarf). When, a young woman came to the scene and tried to prevent them from assaulting me, the Israeli soldiers arrested both of us.

    As they forced us into a military jeep, one Israeli soldier pushed me and I fell to the ground. Someone hit my foot with something; since then I’ve been suffering from foot pain.

    They blindfolded and handcuffed us, and we were taken to Hallamish settlement. They took me to Binyamin Interrogation Center and they photographed me, and I had to sign a paper written in Hebrew. They asked me not to participate in demonstrations in the future, but actually I did not participate on that particular day. After midnight, my husband and the father of the girl came to the center and took us from there.

    But I want to say that it is our right to demonstrate against Israeli settlers taking control of our land and spring. Our demonstrations are peaceful and non violent events. The settlers’ actions on our land are a provocation, and even the acts of the Israeli army and military forces harm our dignity. My husband and son witnessed the humiliating spectacle of my arrest, and were deeply affected.’



Significant increases in Palestinian child casualties and displacement in 2011

Palestinian children across the West Bank and Gaza Strip continue to face significant gaps in protection, with many children regularly exposed to violence, including that from Israeli military operations as well as Israeli settler violence.3 During the first five months of 2011, there have been worrying increases in the number of child casualties, displacement and incidents leading to disruptions in education.

The number of Palestinian children injured as a result of conflict-related violence has progressively increased during the first five months of this year, peaking in May with the injury of 106 children – the highest level of child casualties since Israel’s “Cast Lead” military offensive from December 2008 – January 2009. The majority of May injuries occurred in the context of demonstrations marking An Nakba day (see casualties piece herein). Thus far in 2011, an average of 57 children per month have been injured, compared with an average of 30 injured each month in 2010. Seventy percent of the Palestinian child injuries in 2011 occurred in the West Bank.

In the same vein, there has been a significant increase in the number of children in the West Bank displaced, with over four times as many children displaced due to the demolition of their homes in the first five months of 2011 than were displaced during the parallel period in 2010: 228 children compared to 56.

These developments took place alongside continued incidents affecting education, including damage to schools and disruption of classes, which increased significantly in spring 2011. In the first four months of 2011,4 a total number of 19 incidents were documented where actions by Israeli security forces resulted in damage to schools, or in interrupted education. In addition, there were three documented disruptions of schools and one fatality of a student, caused by rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza towards southern Israel. In the same period, there were 16 incidents where students were unable to reach their school, where learning was disrupted, or where the safety of students was compromised, including injury to students en route to or at school.5

The protection issues affecting Palestinian children extend beyond those identified above; the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip continues to restrict children’s access to basic services, as do continued movement and access restrictions applied by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank. In addition, tens of children continue to be arrested and detained by the Israeli authorities each month. For many children, virtually every aspect of their daily life is negatively impacted in some way by Israel’s continued occupation, and there is an urgent need for improved protection of the rights of girls and boys as enshrined in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.

Children should be afforded special protection and their lives, liberty and security should be respected at all times. Allegations of violations against children should be investigated and prosecuted in an independent, impartial, effective, thorough, and prompt manner. All children should have protected access to quality education in a safe and environment, free of violence, harassment and abuse.


Update on the opening of Rafah Crossing

On 28 May, the Rafah border crossing officially reopened, nearly four years after it was closed following the take-over of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007. Following the change of regime in Egypt, the new Egyptian authorities announced that certain restrictions would be rescinded, and the border crossing would be re-opened and be subject to the same conditions that existed prior to June 2007. On 25 May the Egyptian authorities announced an increase in opening hours from 9 am to 5 pm daily, excluding Fridays and official holidays. All Palestinian women and children, and men above the age of 40, would be exempt from visa requirements to enter Egypt. However, by the end of the month concerns arose about the implementation of the new procedures and mechanisms. On 4 June the Egyptian authorities again closed Rafah for those exiting Gaza. According to the Egyptian authorities, the crossing was closed for maintenance.

Discussions between the Gaza and Egyptian authorities regarding the status of Rafah crossing are currently underway. After reaching an agreement with the Egyptian authorities, on 7 June, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza announced that Rafah crossing will re-open in both directions. On 8 June, Rafah crossing operated in both directions, and approximately 450 people exited Gaza to Egypt and 409 others entered Gaza. However, 84 people were denied entry to Egypt for unspecified reasons.


Background on the European Union Border Mission in Rafah (EUBAM)
Following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza in Sept 2005, the Access and Movement Agreement (AMA)6 gave provisions for the Rafah Crossing to be open as a pedestrian and export crossing once international standards could be met, and under the supervision of international observers, the European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM). Rafah subsequently opened in 25 November 2005 and remained open most days until 25 June 2006, following an attack on an Israeli military post at Kerem Shalom and the kidnapping of an Israel soldier, Gilad Shalit, who continues to be held by Palestinian armed factions. Between June 2006 and the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, Rafah only sporadically opened due to ‘security reasons’. EUBAM remained deployed at the terminal from 25 November 2005 until 9 June 2007 in order to ‘monitor, verify and evaluate the crossing point’. The crossing remained fully within the authority of the PA but the monitors had the right to examine and reassess passengers, luggage, vehicles and goods.7 Although EUBAM has not been present at Rafah crossing since June 2007, its mandate has been renewed yearly by the Council of the European Union, in agreement with the Palestinian Authority and Government of Israel. The mandate that expired on 24 May 2011, was recently renewed until the end of the year. However, since the new opening announcement of 28 May, EUBAM has not been requested to return to the crossing. The Gazan authorities have stated that they have deployed relevant officials to the crossing, and the presence of EUBAM is not required as the crossing should continue to be run as a Palestinian /Egyptian crossing point.


The Rafah border crossing is the only passenger terminal between Gaza and Egypt. Since the Hamas take-over, the crossing has opened exceptionally for medical and humanitarian cases, foreign passport holders, and those with visas for third countries. Following the “Flotilla incident” of 31 May 2010, Egypt announced a more liberal opening of the crossing of six days per week (revised down to five days in December). However, the category and daily number of restrictions were left in place, and the Gaza authorities continued to register those wanting to exit and to allocate crossing dates. As of 27 May, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza stated that it has up to 10,000 people registered to leave Gaza, and these people will be given priority to exit.

Gaza:import of aggregates resumes amidst restrictive procedures

On 11 May, the Israeli authorities began operating the new facility at the Kerem Shalom Crossing designated for the transfer of bulk aggregates, which replaces a conveyer belt located at the Karni Crossing that was shut down in March 2011. This allowed a resumption in the entry of aggregates for specific projects carried out by international agencies and approved by the Israeli authorities, which had come to a halt for the previous three weeks.8 Despite this positive development, the restrictive operational procedures at the crossing have continued to impede the flow of permitted goods into Gaza.

While the Israeli authorities initially announced that this facility will be able to handle 100 truckloads of aggregates a day, this figure has been now reduced to 80. In practice, due to a range of restrictions and inefficiencies, the highest daily figure reached during May was 48 truckloads. During the first five months of 2007, for example, prior to the imposition of the blockade, an average of 12,350 truckloads of aggregates entered Gaza every month. The Crossing Points Administration (CPA), which manages the Kerem Shalom Crossing, has determined that the new facility will be allocated to only one international organisation per day, which can bring in only one type of aggregate from only one supplier. As a result, requests for the entry of relatively small number of trucks have been denied on the grounds that it is not “economically viable”. Due to this reason, on 26 May, UNDP was prevented from entering 28 truckloads, and one INGO requiring four truckloads decided to transfer the aggregate in one tonne bags at extra cost, via the pallet transfer area.

Moreover, the coordination problems that have long plagued the efficient transfer of materials at Kerem Shalom appear to be worsening regarding the new facility. A recurrent source of these problems seems to be the discrepancies between the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), which processes import requests, and the CPA. This prevents the agencies from being able to plan more than one day ahead. In cases where trucks are loaded, and the delivery is cancelled at the last moment, transport companies tend to charge cancellation fees. Discussion about measures aimed at alleviating some of these inefficiencies are currently ongoing between the Israeli authorities and UN representatives.

Additionally, following the opening of the aggregate facility the CLA began reducing the number of approvals it gives for the entry of other goods, on the grounds that the current infrastructure only allow for the processing of a maximum of 300 truckloads a day, including aggregates. This limitation has resulted in delays in the delivery of foodstuffs and household commodities for the private sector, as well as construction materials for international organisations. In early June, however, the CLA agreed to raise this ceiling by 50 additional truckloads.

Overall, the current capacity of the Kerem Shalom is less than two-thirds the pre-blockade capacity for imports, and 12.5 percent of the exports requirement set up in the 2005 AMA agreement (50 out of 400 a day). Therefore, this crossing alone is inadequate to handle the volume of goods required to implement the work plan identified (but not yet approved) by international aid agencies, or to allow the normal functioning of the economy (given a lifting of current restrictions). The relocation of all cargo operations to Kerem Shalom has also resulted in heavy additional expenses due to the requirement to repackage shipments into pallets; the need to perform a double back-to-back procedure; and the longer travel distances, among others. WFP and UNRWA have estimated these additional costs at USD two million a year for each agency. Finally, this situation has left Gaza’s population increasingly vulnerable if an outbreak of hostilities prompts the closure of the sole remaining crossing.

The uncertainty of residency rights
in the oPt

Documents disclosed in early May by the Israeli government, upon the request of the Israeli human rights organization Hamoked - the Centre for the Defence of the Individual, reveal that 140,000 West Bank residents were stripped of their residency status between 1967 and 1994. This was implemented by mean of a covert procedure applied to West Bank residents travelling abroad, or residing in another country, for a period of over six years. Those affected included students who graduated from foreign universities, businessmen and labourers who left for work in the Gulf.

Over the years, less than 8 percent of those whose status was revoked were allowed to return, especially those with close links to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, West Bank residents travelling abroad can retain their residency status even if they had not returned for years. However, the vast majority of those Palestinians whose status was revoked – 130,000 – are still listed as ‘no longer residents’, with no right to return to their homes in the West Bank.

In addition, other categories of Palestinians are still subject to revocation of their residency rights and therefore face the risk of being deported, prevented from returning to their homes, or living separated from their families. The groups that face the greatest risk are East Jerusalem ID holders who reside outside the city, Gaza residents who live in the West Bank, and the spouses of Palestinians and foreign nationals who live in the West Bank.9

East Jerusalem residents

Unlike Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem residents are considered ‘permanent residents’ of Israel and their blue ID cards entitle them to freedom of movement in Jerusalem and in Israel, and to Israeli social security benefits.

However, unlike citizens of Israel, in order to retain their residency rights, East Jerusalem residents are required to prove their ‘centre of life’ lies within the Israeli-defined municipal boundary. The status of permanent resident expires if that person lives for a period of seven years or more outside of East Jerusalem or Israel, including in any other part of the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and/or if he/she obtains citizenship or residency in another country.

Approximately 14,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians had their residency revoked between 1967 and mid-2010, with over 4,500 revoked in 2008. In addition, a permanent resident who marries a non-resident must submit, on behalf of the spouse, a request for ‘family unification’, a process which is currently frozen, although temporary ‘military’ permits may be obtained instead. It is only under certain conditions that the children of such unions can obtain a registration number from the Israeli Ministry of Interior which enables them to receive a Jerusalem ID card as required at age of 16. Because of the arduous and lengthy process, many West Bank spouses and children of such unions have no alternative other than to live in East Jerusalem ‘illegally’ for protracted periods of time.10

Gaza residents living in the West Bank also constitute a very vulnerable group when it comes to their residency status. Given that the West Bank and Gaza are considered as a ‘single territorial unit’, the Oslo Accords has established that every change of address between the two parts should be updated by the PA in its version of the population registry, provided that it informs the Israeli authorities. However, Israel has frozen the updating of its version of the registry since 2000, with the result that those Gazans who had moved to the West Bank through temporary permits and decided to stay there permanently, could not have their change of address updated in the Israeli registry. Although the Israeli Authorities’ role should have been limited to updating information provided by the Palestinian side, they have taken upon themselves to examine requests and have taken active steps to deport these people, on the grounds that they are ‘illegal aliens’. According to HaMoked, between early 2008 to mid 2010, 85 Palestinians registered as Gaza residents were removed by the Israeli authorities from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, including people who married in the West Bank and some who had been living in the West Bank prior to the outbreak of the second intifada.11 Two new military orders that came into force in early 2010 expand the ability of the IDF to forcibly transfer or deport Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank.12

Foreign spouses of West Bank residents

Following the beginning of the second Intifada, Israel froze the family unification process for West Bank residents and their foreign spouses. Thereafter, there were numerous cases of foreign spouses who entered on tourist visas and continued residing in the West Bank ‘illegally’. In 2007, in a “goodwill gesture,” the Israeli authorities announced that up to 50,000 family unification cases would be examined and approved. According to HaMoked, this quota has not yet been filled. The quota only applies to those foreign spouses who already reside in the West Bank and who had overstayed their visa, and not to those with valid visas or those living abroad who wish to reunite with their families in the West Bank. Therefore, while this quota gives an opportunity to some foreign spouses to legalize their stay, it constitutes an isolated concession: the normal procedure for family unification has not yet been restored.

Food assistance programmes to be suspended due to funding shortfalls

As of the end of May, the 2011 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), with a total request of USD 585.6 million, was only 24 percent funded. In the absence of additional pledges, organizations will be forced to scale back activities in the second half of 2011. Among the possible factors leading to the currently low levels of funding are financial constraints of key donors, resulting in a slower pace of commitments, as well as the shifting of funds towards other parts of the Middle East region affected by violence and growing needs.

While the impact of shortfalls in the CAP is felt across all humanitarian sectors, both in Gaza and the West Bank, the food security sector, which has the highest financial requirements in the CAP, over $204 million, has been among the hardest hit; funding stands at only 20 per cent. Food assistance projects included in the CAP are aimed at improving the living conditions of those affected by food insecurity, which include over half of the households in Gaza and over a fifth of those in the West Bank.

The World Food Programme (WFP), the second largest implementing agency for food assistance, reports that it faces a funding shortfall of USD 27.5 million. The agency has already begun reducing food rations, decreasing the number of families assisted, and borrowing emergency funds from internal sources to maintain current programmes. If funds are not secured in the coming months, one of its key programmes -‘assistance to the destitute’ - which benefits around 218,000 people throughout the oPt, will be suspended. This programme has already been reduced in the West Bank, with beneficiaries receiving smaller quantities of food every three months instead of bi-monthly. The agency has also been forced to suspend school feeding programmes in Gaza, which serve 92,000 school children.

In the absence of new financial commitments, UNRWA, the largest provider of food assistance, will have to implement major cuts. In particular, food assistance to approximately 650,000 of the poorest refugees in the Gaza Strip, including 300,000 refugees living in abject poverty ($1.5 per day per person), will cease as of September 2011. In addition, UNRWA will be forced to cease provision of food assistance to 8,625 refugees who face difficulties accessing food, particularly in Area C and areas between the Barrier and the Green Line, as of 1 October 2011.

A cut in food aid will most probably result in tens of thousands beneficiaries resorting to negative coping mechanisms, such as increasing debt, selling assets and reducing the number of meals taken each week.


















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