Addressing the immediate needs of those directly impacted by the July-August hostilities in the Gaza Strip remains the most pressing challenge for the humanitarian actors in the oPt. Vulnerable groups include over 20,000 families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged and are currently displaced, in addition to up to 80,000 families living in houses that have sustained varying degrees of damage. Despite generous pledges by the international community, as well as an agreement on a temporary mechanism for the import of restricted building materials into Gaza, very few families have been able to start reconstruction or repair of their homes.
The already precarious conditions of such families will undoubtedly deteriorate with the onset of winter. This is compounded by the longstanding energy crisis prevailing in Gaza, including electricity outages for up to 18 hours a day, that force service providers to rely heavily on back-up generators.1
Urgent financial support is needed to procure at least 700,000 litres of fuel per month to operate these generators and enable the functioning of the most vital health, water and sanitation and municipal facilities during the winter months.
Humanitarian agencies have begun to implement a range of responses to alleviate the impact of rain and low temperatures. These include the distribution of blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, heaters and gas bottles to people displaced or living in damaged homes or makeshift shelters. Other measures are being introduced to improve the ability of service providers and families at high risk to prevent and respond to localized flooding. Additionally, to improve the living conditions and preparedness for the future of some 28,000 displaced people hosted in its facilities, UNRWA introduced a new management system that enhances existing services, adopts protection standards, and engages the active involvement of beneficiaries, among other features.
The main driver of tension in the West Bank has been the concerns among Palestinians about a further erosion of the status quo on the access arrangements to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. Tensions have been reflected in the frequency and intensity of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, and increased arrests and home demolitions by the Israeli authorities. There are serious concerns of a potential wider escalation to other areas of the oPt.
Other West Bank concerns highlighted in this Humanitarian Bulletin are settlement activities in an area of the Qalqiliya governorate designated as a ‘nature reserve’ (Wadi Qana); and the tightening of access restrictions to a Palestinian community on the ‘Jerusalem side’ of the Barrier (Beit Iksa).
On a positive note, initial reports suggest that the annual olive harvest, which officially started this month, has taken place without significant disruptions and there has been a significant decline in incidents of vandalism by Israeli settlers against olive trees compared with previous years. In one case, Palestinian farmers from several communities in eastern Bethlehem governorate were allowed to reach their olive groves in the vicinity of Israeli settlements for the first time in over a decade under the ‘prior coordination regime’.
In his briefing to the Security Council on 21 October, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, shared some observations from his latest visit to the Gaza Strip, stating that ‘nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed’. He also expressed particular concern at continued settlement building in East Jerusalem and ‘unilateral actions, restrictions and provocations at the Holy Sites in Jerusalem’. The Secretary-General concluded that: ‘There is no hope for long-term stability in Gaza without addressing the underlying causes of the conflict: an end to the occupation that has grinded on for nearly half a century, a full lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and effectively addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.’
1Conflict-related casualties: includes all casualties that occurred in violent incidents immediately related to the Israeli occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as military operations, search and arrest campaigns, clashes during demonstrations, attacks involving Israeli settlers, etc. These figures exclude other related casualties such as those in the context of access delays, the explosion of unexploded ordnance, reckless handling of weapons, collapse of tunnels, and internal Palestinian violence.