In his 23 November briefing to the Security Council, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, warned of the increasing challenges facing the humanitarian community and its ability to deliver assistance to Palestinians in need. This month's Humanitarian Bulletin highlights some of the challenges in blockaded Gaza Strip. These include additional Israeli restrictions imposed in recent months on the entry of basic building materials it classifies as having a "dual civilian and military purpose", cement in particular. The restrictions have slowed down the rate of reconstruction of 17,800 homes destroyed or damaged during the 2014 conflict, prolonging the vulnerability of more than 10,000 families who are still displaced, and whose living conditions are expected to worsen as seasonal rains approach.
Israeli-imposed restrictions on the import of "dual use" materials also apply to items such as mobile pumps needed for flood prevention and response. The Under-Secretary General warned that "urgent projects which aim to reduce the risk of flooding that threatens nearly 500,000 people as winter approaches have been on hold for 10 months awaiting clearance of equipment."
Aid workers have been also affected. The denial rate for permit applications for national staff of UN agencies to enter or exit Gaza had increased from four per cent in 2015 to 40 per cent in the third quarter of 2016. The Under-Secretary General observed that in October, "more than half of our UN applicants were turned-away, with some advised not to apply for 12 months. No explanation other than 'security' is cited, leaving us at a loss as to how to respond and a growing morale problem." Mr. O'Brien concluded his review of Gaza's restrictions by observing: "Ultimately, real progress in Gaza requires a full lifting of the blockade by Israel, in line with the resolutions of this Council and the General Assembly. Until that happens, Israel must ensure that items needed for reconstruction, relief and emergency preparedness are allowed entry. And that aid workers are able to move about to do their vital work."