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Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
17 December 2007
Overview- Key Issues
Update on Closure of Gaza Crossings
The Rafah, Karni and Sufa crossings remain largely closed during the reporting period for the movement of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip. Kerem Shalom is the only crossing point open for the import of commercial and humanitarian supplies as well as for a limited amount of export of agricultural products. In November 2007, a total of 1,813 truckloads, including 255 from humanitarian agencies, were allowed into Gaza, and between 28 and 30 November, 12 truckloads of exports (23 tons of strawberries and some 370,000 flowers) were allowed to leave Gaza through Kerem Shalom. This is only the second time that exports have left the Gaza Strip since the mid-June 2007 closure (the first time was on 27 August when seven truckloads of potatoes were allowed out). Since 28 October 2007, also the Sufa crossing has remained mostly closed for the import of goods. Exceptionally, 176 truckloads carrying 6,834 calves were allowed into Gaza through this crossing, compared to 501 truckloads carrying various commodities that entered Sufa during the pervious month. Rafah crossing as well remains mainly closed for the movement of people since 10 June 2007. Only during the last days of November, about 2,300 pilgrims were able to pass through this crossing to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj). (For more details on Gaza crossings, see Access section herein).
Impact of Fuel Cuts in the Gaza Strip
Israeli restrictions, a strike by Gaza fuel station owners and delays in payments from the Palestinian Authority to Israeli fuel companies had led to severe fuel shortages in Gaza as of the last week of November. Following the Israeli government’s statement on 19 September declaring Gaza a hostile entity, on 28 October Israel began implementing parts of the proposed sanctions by reducing the amounts of fuel entering into Gaza. In November, a 40% decrease of petrol, 49% decrease of diesel and 14% decrease of industrial gas were recorded, compared to October 2007. On 29 November, the shortages were compounded by Gaza’s 30 private fuel companies, which halted deliveries to protest the Israeli fuel cutback. In effect, the majority of Gaza’s gas stations have been forced to close their doors, due to the lack of daily fuel deliveries.
The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), the main body managing water and sanitation resources in Gaza, only received 28,000 liters of fuel in November. This is18.6% of its monthly requirements in order to normally operate its wells, pumping stations and treatment plants. Since the diesel fuel cuts started in late October 2007, CMWU is facing growing difficulties in operating the water and waste-water system throughout the Gaza Strip. (For more details on the impact of fuel cuts on water and waste-water issues, see Water Sector section herein).
According to WHO, as a result of fuel cuts, compounded with a rise in the number of hours that electricity has been interrupted, two of the 11 MoH Gaza hospitals have faced severe shortages of diesel and 11 out of 56 Primary Health Care facilities were obliged to stop emergency generators
and temporarily halt the provision of dental, laboratory and x-ray services. Fuel for the MoH vehicles has not been available since November 29. In effect, most of the MoH vehicles are not operational for transporting staff and supplies, affecting the provision of service delivery. Gaza Strip municipalities and rural councils have been unable to run garbage collection trucks due to the lack of fuel. Garbage has mounted up throughout the streets raising concerns of potential health risks.
Lack of Spare Parts in the Gaza Strip
The water and sewage system in the Gaza Strip is currently very vulnerable due to restrictions on the entry of spare part into the Gaza Strip. CMWU is experiencing severe shortages of spare parts including pumps, metal pipes and other materials necessary for repairs and preventive maintenance, which have been repeatedly denied access by Israel since June 2007. Since July, CMWU, which maintains the majority of water/waste-water networks, pumping stations and water wells in the Gaza Strip, has been unable to perform normal functions because of the severe lack of spare parts. As of mid-November, 10 wells, serving 150,000 people throughout the Gaza Strip, need to have their electrical motor replaced. Similarly, 10 pumping stations, serving 600,000 from Gaza city (5), Jabalia (3) and Rafah (2) require urgent repairs that cannot be carried out because of the lack of spare parts. The inevitable breakdown of machinery that will follow, should spare parts not arrive in Gaza, will lead to the reduction/cessation of services and reduce further people’s access to water. Israel has denied a request to get spare parts into Gaza for World Bank and UNICEF-funded projects including pipes, valves, water and waste water pumps and electromechanical spare parts.
At-Risk of Forced Displacement in the West Bank
Numerous small communities located in Area C throughout the West Bank have received multiple eviction and demolition orders and, therefore, are at risk of forced displacement. In Southern Hebron, residents of the Am Al Kher community have received a number of eviction orders. These orders affect two groups within the community from the Hethaleen family, numbering 16 families (some 150 people). They have been residing for over 45 years in their current location, immediately adjacent the fence surrounding Karmel settlement (established in 1981). They are 1948 refugees from the Eastern Negev area and state that they have no alternative land. Five new eviction orders were issued on 26 November with a one week appeal period. Six houses were demolished on 14 February 2007. OCHA has raised the situation of the Hethaleen with the Israeli DCL in Hebron. The Southern Hebron communities of Zanuta and Susiya are similarly at risk. Together with the Hethaleen, these three communities have a combined population of some 600 Palestinians, who depend on sheepherding for their livelihoods and own some 5,500 sheep. Eviction from their homes and land would prevent herding and, therefore, destroy their livelihood practices. (For more details on the situation of these communities, please contact OCHA).
Death of 10 Patients following Delays in Obtaining Permits to Cross Erez (WHO)
The delay in obtaining a permit to cross Erez checkpoint for medical reasons is a serious problem that can be life threatening, especially for emergency cases. On average, two to 24 hours are required to obtain a permit for urgent medical cases. In November, two patients in critical condition died at Erez checkpoint after waiting over 48 hours to obtain a permit. One of the patients was a 46-year-old patient, who was injured by an Israeli rocket; the other was a 42-year-old patient with a cerebral hemorrhage. Eight other patients died either at hospitals in the Gaza Strip or in their homes while waiting for permits to cross Erez during November 2007. Of these, two were children in critical condition; the first, a 12-year-old with Meningio-Encephalitis; the other an eight-month-old with renal failure. Both died at Gaza Pediatric Hospital as a result of a delay of more than 4 days to grant them permits to cross Erez.
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