|Two Palestinians injured in the Access Restricted Areas
Incidents involving Israeli forces opening fire into the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) at land and sea have continued on a daily basis, with 20 such incidents reported during the week, including two resulting in injuries. On 5 December, two Palestinians, ages 19 and 25, were shot and injured when Israeli forces positioned near the fence opened fire towards a group of Palestinians at around 100 meters from the fence, east of Jabaliya. In one incident, on 6 December in the ARA at sea, Israeli naval forces opened fire towards five Palestinian fishing boats containing 12 Palestinian fishermen, reportedly, sailing within two-three nautical miles from the shore, west of Beit Lahia.
Israeli naval forces surrounded the boats and forced the fishermen to take off their clothes and swim towards the Israeli naval boats, where they were placed under arrest. The fishermen’s boats and fishing nets were confiscated.
Also in the ARA, Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians reportedly during attempts to infiltrate into Israel in search of work.
Palestinian access to areas in the vicinity of the fence has increased since the ceasefire of 26 August 2014. However, the Israeli authorities have so far not officially announced the boundaries of what they consider a restricted area, thus generating uncertainty and increasing the risks to the civilian population. Field observations suggest that areas within 100 meters from the fence are largely inaccessible, while access to areas several hundred meters beyond this distance is risky. Access to fishing areas in the sea is restricted to six nautical miles from the coast. These access restrictions, imposed by the Israeli military citing security concerns, continue to undermine the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and fishermen and their families.
Serious concerns over suspension of cleaning services at health facilities in Gaza
On 4 December, around 750 employees providing the bulk of cleaning services to 13 hospitals and 56 health centers under the auspices of the Ministry of Health (MoH) suspended their services in protest of not receiving salaries since June 2014. As a result, waste, including medical waste, has piled up in medical centers, increasing the risk of contamination and spread of diseases and forcing the MoH to suspend a range of medical services, including non-urgent surgeries, which have reached around 180 operations, thus far. The MoH is urgently seeking to cover the salaries of some 300 of these staff and raise $100,000 to procure cleaning supplies, as an emergency measure, pending longer-term solutions for covering the outstanding salaries. The total cost for cleaning services in MoH facilities is approximately $2.5 million per year.
The halt in cleaning services exacerbates the situation for an already strained health system, affected by chronic energy problems, a shortage of equipment and medication, and a lack of training opportunities for its staff, stemming, by and large, from years of blockade compounded by the large influx of injuries attributed to the July-August 2014 hostilities. This has resulted in prolonged delays in access to treatment and increasing referrals sought outside of Gaza.