Suspected settler attack in West Bank village results in two fatalities.
This month's Bulletin highlights long-standing concerns about Israeli settler violence. On 31 July, for the sixteenth time since the beginning of 2015, suspected Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian property. This resulted in the death of an 18-month-old child and his father, and critical injuries to the mother and other child, in Duma village, Nablus. In his monthly briefing to the Security Council, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs emphasized that the Duma attack, like many previous incidents, including against those Israeli settlers, "occurred in the context of a chronic lack of adequate law enforcement in the West Bank. Such violence is possible because of the environment created as a result of Israel's decades-long policy of illegal settlement activities."
The West Bank also witnessed a significant escalation in the Israeli authorities' demolition of Palestinian structures in Area C on the grounds of lack of building permits. On 17 August alone, 22 structures were demolished in four Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem periphery, displacing 78 Palestinians, including 49 children. This was the largest displacement in a single day in almost three years. These residents are part of the 46 communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer due to a "relocation" plan advanced by the Israeli authorities. If implemented, this plan would amount to forcible transfer and forced eviction, contravening Israel's obligations as an occupying power under humanitarian law and human rights law. In a statement, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Robert Piper noted: "The strategic implications of these demolitions are clear ... The relocation plan ... would effectively remove Palestinian presence in and around the planned El settlement project, (which) has long been opposed by the international community as an obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution and a violation of international law." (The demolitions will be covered in detail in September's Humanitarian Bulletin.)
This month also marked a year since the ceasefire which ended the 50-day summer hostilities in Gaza; on 25 August, the Humanitarian Coordinator led a field visit to Gaza for members of the Humanitarian Country Team and select media outlets to mark the occasion. The ceasefire has largely held, leading to a dramatic decline in clashes and civilian casualties, but the approximately 100,000 people who lost their homes during the hostilities remain displaced in precarious conditions.
On a positive note, in July the "residential stream" of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism began allowing affected families to access the materials needed for reconstruction of totally destroyed homes. Additionally, a Re-registration and Vulnerability Profiling exercise launched on 19 August will better address the humanitarian needs of displaced persons. Also encouraging was the announcement that UNRWA succeeded in securing the funding required to prevent the suspension of its education programme for 500,000 pupils across its five fields of operation: children from Gaza and West Bank were the first to commence the school year as planned, on 24 August. A number of other Bulletin items highlight ongoing and emerging concerns in Gaza, including the chronic electricity problem, which continues to severely disrupt the delivery of basic services, and a new outbreak of "bird flu", thought to be contained in recent months.
The UN Under-Secretary-General concluded his briefing to the Security Council by warning that "the recurrent violent incidents and radicalization in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza threaten to further destabilize an already tense environment. The incidents share a common thread: they are the inevitable product of the failure to make the tough choices necessary to resolve this conflict. They are the ramifications of the failure to prioritize the pursuit of a shared future built on trust rather than fear. We can no longer accept this reality."