Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Arabic
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
30 June 2011




The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor
June 2011


June Overview

More people were forcibly displaced in the West Bank in the first half of 2011 than in any other year since OCHA began recording demolitions in 2006. Most demolitions have taken take place in vulnerable Bedouin or herding communities in Area C, over 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel retains authority over law enforcement and control over the building and planning sphere. The Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) has heavily restricted Palestinian construction in Area C, providing plans for only one percent of the area, designating 70 percent largely for the use of Israeli settlements or for the Israeli military, and applying restrictive planning regulations in the remaining 29 percent. Combined, these restrictions make it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits; conversely, the ICA has approved detailed plans for almost all Israeli settlements, thus allowing for their ongoing expansion, which is now continuing, since the end of the moratorium on settlement expansion in September 2010. Likewise, the approximately 100 settlement outposts in Area C, although have no approved detailed plans and, therefore, no building permits, rarely face the demolition of their “illegal” structures by the ICA.

The presence of settlements and resulting displacement is also critical to another development this month. In June, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected petitions, filed by Palestinians between 2004 and 2006, for the lifting of the severe access restrictions which the Israeli military has imposed on the centre of Hebron City, arguing that the current access restrictions remain necessary. These restrictions protect the Israeli settlements established in the Old City of Hebron, which also includes the main commercial centre and the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs), as well as residential areas where some 35,000 Palestinians live. While Palestinian vehicular and pedestrian traffic is
restricted, Israeli settlers are allowed to move about freely on foot and by vehicle in this area. Hundreds of Palestinian shops in the Old City have been closed by military orders. The extreme access restrictions, compounded by years of systematic harassment by Israeli settlers, have forced a significant part of the Palestinian population to relocate to other areas of the city: more than 1,000 homes are estimated to have been vacated by their former Palestinian residents, and over 1,800 commercial businesses have closed.

Also this month, in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli authorities approved a number of construction projects for housing and infrastructure needs. However, despite the significant increase in the rate of approvals during June, the overall projects approved since the easing of the blockade in June 2010 only address a minority of identified needs. Moreover, the key reason for delays in implementation of approved projects is the continued unavailability of funding. While donor pledges were received to cover all projects, they were pledged over two years ago and the funds could not be disbursed due to lack of Israeli approval for the pledged projects (at that time). The multi-layered system of approvals required to regulate the entry of building materials, is another important reason behind the slow implementation pace. This is compounded by the single operating crossing for goods, which can currently process only up to 50 truckloads of aggregates per day. As a result, only a few of the projects required have been completed, and consequently, the population of Gaza has not experienced any significant improvement in its access to services and housing.

Concerning the access of persons, in May the Egyptian authorities announced the official reopening of the Rafah border crossing in both directions, together with an increase in the crossing’s weekly and daily operating hours and the relaxation of quotas and visa requirements. However, movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip, including from and to other parts of the oPt, remains severely limited. The Egyptian authorities are reportedly limiting the number of travellers into Egypt to 400-450 people per day. The movement of people through the Erez Crossing into Israel is still generally prohibited for all those who do not fall under specific categories, such as humanitarian workers, businessmen and traders, and ‘humanitarian cases’, including patients.

An additional key humanitarian concern in Gaza is the shortage of essential drugs and medical disposables in Gaza, which has been a chronic problem since 2007. On 29 June, the World Health Organization reported that 28 percent of the essential drug list was out of stock, in addition to 21 percent of the medical disposables. The irregular and insufficient shipments that have been reported in the last months are due to shortages faced by the Ministry of Health (MoH), based in Ramallah, which is responsible for providing drugs and medical disposables to MoH facilities in Gaza. It is also a result of concerns expressed by suppliers about receiving payments in the aftermath of the political conciliation between Fatah and Hamas in April 2011. The result is a further decline in the ability of the Gaza medical system to deliver health care. Many hospitals have been forced to curtail or stop the delivery of a number of surgeries or treatments. Many are recycling used medical disposables, such as tubes and gloves, increasing the risk of crossinfections. In the most severe cases, patients are being referred to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip.

To begin addressing the vulnerability of the populations outlined above, a freeze on demolitions in Area C should be declared until Palestinians have access to a fair and non-discriminatory planning and zoning process. In addition, Palestinians living in Hebron’s Old City must be able to freely access services. In the Gaza Strip, approved construction projects need to be implemented in an efficient manner, while the timely delivery of medical supplies to Gaza should be prioritized.

Significant rise in demolitions

In the first half of 2011, OCHA recorded more people forcibly displaced in the oPt than in any other year since it began recording demolitions in 2006, with at least 689 people displaced, half of them children. This exceeds the total number of people displaced in all of 2009 or 2010, when 643 and 606 people were displaced, respectively. One-third of people were displaced in June 2011 alone. The livelihoods and living standards of some 1,300 additional people have also been negatively affected this year.

In 58 demolitions, 356 structures were destroyed, four times more than during the same period in 2010 (89). About 1/3 of structures demolished in 2011 have been residential structures. The remaining structures provided people with a means to earn a living, including animal shelters (at least 98) and rainwater harvesting cisterns (at least 17), seriously straining the coping mechanisms of communities, which become more dependent on economically unsustainable solutions, such as expensive tankered water. Nearly all structures demolished thus far in 2011 have been located in Area C,1 the over 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel retains control over security, planning and zoning.

The significant rise in demolitions causes serious humanitarian concerns, particularly as most demolitions take place in some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, often Bedouin or herding communities in Area C. Residents of these communities live in very basic structures (e.g. tents, tin shelters, etc.), have limited access to services, and have no service infrastructure (including water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure). Food insecurity among these communities is high, at 55 percent, post-assistance, compared to the overall level of 22 percent for the West Bank.2

In 2011, several Area C communities, such as Khirbet Tana, Al Farisiya, Arab ar Rashayida and Susiya, have experienced multiple demolitions in short succession, and had already suffered demolitions and displacement several times before.3 Each demolition worsens the living conditions of residents, who often already live below the poverty line, and further reduces their access to services and their ability to earn a living. It also causes anxiety and insecurity, which can lead to psychosocial consequences such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Demolitions, combined with other difficulties, such as settler violence and movement restrictions, creates constant pressure on Palestinians, contributing to forced displacement.

The Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) has heavily restricted Palestinian construction in Area C, providing plans for only some one percent of the area, much of which is already built-up. The remainder of Area C is effectively off-limits to Palestinian construction, with 70 percent largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military and restrictive planning regulations applied in the remaining 29 percent that make it virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain a building permit.

While Palestinians face these restrictions, the ICA has established preferential practices for Israeli settlements, approving detailed plans for almost all Israeli settlements located in the West Bank, allowing for ongoing expansion. The Israeli movement Peace Now has reported that, since the end of the moratorium on settlement expansion in September 2010, construction of some 2,000 housing units has started in 75 settlements in the West Bank – “erasing the effect” of the moratorium.4 In the same vein, although the approximately 100 settlement outposts in Area C have no approved detailed plans, and, thus, no building permits, they rarely face the demolition of their “illegal” structures by the ICA.

There are particular concerns over recent settlement-related developments in the Jordan Valley, where over half of structures demolished in 2011 were located: according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, at the end of 2010, the Israeli government approved funding for the construction of dozens of housing units in two settlements in the northern Jordan Valley (Maskiyot and Sdemot Mehola), which are located close to recent 2011 demolition sites in Al Maleh, Al Farisiya and Ein al Hilwa.5 Additionally, Israeli media reported this month that in June 2011, the Settlement Division nearly doubled the amount of ’state land’ allocated to 21 settlements in the Jordan Valley for cultivation.6


    Demolitions and systematic displacement in Al Hadidiya
    On 10 and 21 June, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) carried out two demolitions in the Bedouin community of Al Hadidiya (Tubas), displacing 37 people including 17 children. A further 15 people were affected, including 10 children. Among the demolished structures were eight residential tents, 21 animal barracks and pens and four outdoor kitchens. Several families were prevented from removing their belongings before the demolition. Al Hadidiya is a herding community of some 230 residents, half of whom live in the community on a seasonal basis, and is located next to the Israeli settlement of Ro’i in the northern Jordan Valley. Some community members report having born in this location in the 1950s. The community representative estimates that dozens of families have been permanently displaced since 1997, due to a combination of factors, primarily demolitions (1997, 2005-2007, 2008, and 2011), confiscation of water-related equipment (2000) and movement and access restrictions (increasing since 2000).

    While the Israeli authorities have, in the past, claimed that some incidents of demolition and other activity in Al Hadidiya were due to the community’s location in a closed military zone, according to the community representative, all households displaced on 21 June live outside the boundaries of the closed military zone. They reportedly received demolition orders in 2008, but did not take legal action. In 2009, a further round of stop-work/evacuation orders for different structures was delivered and an Israeli High Court injunction was obtained to freeze the orders from 2009 (but not those from 2008). On 16 June 2011, orders were again distributed, giving residents three days to object to the demolition orders from 2008. An appeal was filed with the ICA on 19 June and rejected on the same day; the demolitions took place while the legal representative of the community was at the Israeli High Court to submit a petition.

    Thus far, support provided to the community includes basic hygiene kits, residential tents, animal shelters and psycho-social counseling for residents.

    These were the first demolitions in the community since 2008 and have created an urgent need for residential tents, animal shelter, psycho-social support, as well as food, water, hygiene and education kits. As a result, coping mechanisms in this community have been further eroded and the residents will likely be pushed deeper into a cycle of debt and poverty.


Directly addressing the discriminatory and restrictive planning and zoning policies applied by the Israeli authorities in the oPt, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos remarked in May 2011 that, “I don’t believe that most people in Israel have any idea of the way planning policies are used to divide and harass [Palestinian] communities and families. They would not themselves like to be subjected to such behaviour.”7

The separation regime in Hebron
City upheld by Israel’s Supreme
Court

This month, the Israeli Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice) issued a decision rejecting several petitions, filed by Palestinians between 2004 and 2006, for the lifting of the severe access restrictions that the Israeli military has imposed on the center of Hebron City.

These restrictions have been imposed and gradually expanded since the mid-1990s to protect Israeli settlements that were established in and around the Old City of Hebron. Together with East Jerusalem, these are the only two cases where Israeli settlements were built in the middle of a Palestinian city. In the context of an agreement signed in 1997, control over the city was divided between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The area controlled by Israel (also known as the H2 area) comprises about four square kilometers, which include four settlements,8 the main commercial centre and the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs), as well as residential areas where some 35,000 Palestinians live.9

At present, there are approximately 120 physical obstacles (roadblocks, gates, etc) separating the Old City from the rest of Hebron, including 18 fullystaffed checkpoints.10 Palestinian traffic is banned along all the roads leading to the Israeli settlements, while in the case of the main commercial artery, Ash Shuhada Street, pedestrian movement is also prohibited. On streets where pedestrian movement is permitted, access requires inspection at a military checkpoint. In contrast, Israeli settlers are allowed to move about freely throughout these areas, both on foot and with vehicles. Additionally, hundreds of Palestinian shops in the Old City have been also closed by military orders, which are renewed every six months.

The extreme access restrictions, compounded by years of systematic harassment by Israeli settlers, have forced a significant part of the Palestinian population to relocate to other areas of the city: more than 1,000 homes are estimated to have been vacated by their former Palestinian residents, and over 1,800 commercial businesses have closed.11 Access to basic services by those living within or nearby these areas has been severely affected: pregnant women are forced to stay at the homes of relatives or friends in the PA-controlled area of the city (H1) immediately before and after they deliver; the Palestinian Fire Department, as well as the Water Department of the municipality, require prior-coordination with the

Israeli authorities before it can reach any fire, or fix a water pipe; attendance at the three schools in the area has declined sharply in recent years.

In response to this situation, in 2007 the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted to the army an expert opinion issued by a group of retired IDF senior officers, which proposed a model that would enable the army to protect the Israeli settlers without isolating the area from the rest of the city. The army responded to the suggestion as follows:

In August 2009, in the context of the petitions, the military partially opened one of the roads into the area (leading from the Kiryat Arba settlement to the Ibrahimi Mosque/ Cave of the Patriarchs) for vehicles belonging to Palestinians living along this street, provided that they obtained a special permit. To implement this measure, two new permanently staffed checkpoints were installed at both ends of the street; to date, there are 36 such valid permits. More recently, the Israeli military expressed its readiness to open another street, next to the Beit Hadassa settlement, on the condition that the Municipality of Hebron performs certain engineering works.

In the page and a half long decision issued this month, the Israeli High Court of Justice accepted the state’s position that, despite the recent relative improvement in the security situation in Hebron (according to the army), current access restrictions remain necessary. The decision, however, does not elaborate on the legal grounds of which of the current extreme access restrictions are justified.

The establishment of Israeli settlements in the oPt stands in contravention to international humanitarian law (IHL). Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power, must rule the occupied area for the benefit of the local population. However, in Hebron City, the measures it adopted to secure the settlements established there have resulted in the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians, an act in itself prohibited under IHL, and severe hardship for those who remain. In its Concluding Observations regarding Israel, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination addressed the situation in Hebron and recommended Israel to review the measures it has adopted in the city to ensure that restrictions on the freedom of movement are “only of temporary and exceptional nature and are not applied in a discriminatory manner, and do not lead to segregation of communities”.13

Gaza: new construction projects
approved

In June, the Israeli authorities approved a number of construction projects addressing a range of housing and infrastructure needs. Despite the easing of import restrictions since June 2010, the entry of basic building materials is allowed only for specific projects to be carried out by international organizations and supported by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which are considered by the Israeli authorities on an individual basis. Of the recently approved projects, 26, worth over USD 100 million, were submitted by UNRWA, including two housing projects consisting of 1,191 housing units, 18 new schools, the addition of classrooms in six existing schools and one health centre. Additional approvals were granted for two USAID projects in the field of housing and urban gardens, and to five UNDP projects in the field of neighborhood development and road construction.

The combination of the blockade in place since June 2007 and the widespread destruction of homes and infrastructures during the “Cast Lead” offensive have generated immense construction and reconstruction challenges. Therefore, despite the significant increase in the rate of approvals during June, overall projects approved since the easing of the blockade in June 2010 only address a minority of identified needs. In the case of UN agencies (including UNRWA), the value of approved projects amounts to about a third of the organization’s programme of work for Gaza (265 out 789 USD million).

Moreover, only a few of the projects required over the past year could be so far completed. The multi-layered system of approvals put in place by the Israeli authorities to regulate the actual entry of building materials, which involves the submission of relevant documents and negotiation on quantity of materials has resulted in minimal approvals of the required projects. Currently, only 27 percent of UNRWA’s USD 661 million construction programme has been approved.

There has been some improvement in the efficiency of the coordination process for the delivery of construction material. However, despite these improvements, difficulties remain, mainly due to the limitations of the single operating crossing for goods, which can only transfer up to 70 truckloads of aggregate per day. A larger conveyor capable of transferring over 100 truckloads of aggregate per day is not expected to be operational until early 2012.

The lack of funding is another important factor delaying the implementation of approved projects. For example, delayed disbursement of the funds pledged at the Sharm el Sheikh international donor conference in March 2009 for the reconstruction of Gaza is preventing the implementation of a number of approved UNRWA projects in the field of education. Despite approvals for the construction of 42 UNRWA schools from the Israeli authorities, funding remains unavailable for 33 of those schools.

As a result of the limited number of approvals and the slow pace of implementation of projects, the population of Gaza has not experienced any significant improvement in its access to services and housing. For example, due to the shortage of sewage treatment capacity, 50-80 million liters of untreated and partially-treated sewage are still discharged into the sea every day, posing a serious health hazard and risk of sea food contamination. To cope with the shortage of classrooms and schools, the majority of schools are forced to operate on double shifts, or to hold classes in shipping containers, leading to a reduction in class time and the elimination of extracurricular activities.



Update on the opening of Rafah
border crossing for the movement
of people

On 25 May 2011 the Egyptian authorities announced the official reopening of the Rafah border crossing in both directions, and an increase in the crossing’s opening hours from four to eight hours per day and from five to six days per week. In addition, it stated that certain conditions applying until then would be rescinded, such as the imposition of a daily quota of 300 people allowed to cross out, an opportunity granted only to specific categories of people.14 According to the announcement, all Palestinian women and children and men above 40 and less than 18 would be exempt from visa requirements to enter Egypt.

This change in policies allowed for an increased volume of people able to enter and leave the Strip daily, compared to pre- announcement levels. The improvement was already visible in May, when 8,216 and 8, 330 people crossed in and out of the Gaza Strip. In June, 13,130 people were able to enter and nearly 9,955 to leave the Strip, more than double the monthly average in first four months of 2011. However, the volume of people able to cross through Rafah is still far below pre-June 2007 levels. In the first half of 2006, a monthly average of 20,240 and 19,540 people respectively could access and leave the Gaza Strip.

From 4 to 7 June, the crossing was closed by the Egyptian authorities for those exiting Gaza, allegedly due to maintenance works on the Egyptian side. In addition, according to the Border and Crossing Authority, the Egyptian authorities are still unofficially limiting the number of travelers into Egypt to 400-450 people per day. The registration mechanism that was introduced in 2007 to prioritize travelers with humanitarian needs remains in place. More than 20,000 people including among others, medical cases and students, have been registered to have prioritized access through Rafah.


    Ambulance Access Denied
    Um Mohammed – a fifty years old mother of eight - has suffered from cervical disc disorder for the past six months. She was referred to a hospital in Egypt and was given permission to leave the Strip through Rafah, but once at the border crossing she was not able to cross out. She was interviewed at the crossing while attempting to exit for her third time.

    I have an illness that is almost paralyzing my hands and legs making me unable to live a normal life. It makes me incapable to take care of my children. Unfortunately, treatment for this type of neck disorder is not available in Gaza, my treating doctors said. I hoped it would be, so I could stay close to my family. My doctor decided to refer me to an Egyptian hospital in order to undergo neck surgery, and I was advised to do that as soon as possible, as the pressure on my nerves was rapidly increasing and could lead to a spinal cord lesion that would leave me paralyzed for the rest of my life.

    I managed to obtain all the required papers including the referral document from the Ministry of Health on time and I received a hospital appointment for 22 June. I thought I had been lucky and I had passed the most difficult step.

    On 20 June early morning, I was taken by a MoH ambulance to the Rafah Border Crossing which I hoped would allow me to cross easily. However, I was delayed for more than seven hours before my ambulance driver was told by a Palestinian border authority officer that we could not pass due to various restrictions at the crossing. I retuned back home very tired, feeling hopeless, helpless and very emotional towards my children.

    I had to reapply for new documents, set up a new appointment with the hospital and arrange a new coordination with an ambulance – thanks God, my brother is unemployed, so he had time to do this for me. He managed to set up an appointment at the Palestine Hospital in Cairo for 27 June. Then, again a couple of days before, I went to the crossing and waited for more than five hours before my pain became unbearable and had to go home and rest.

    I am trying again today, I arrived by ambulance at 10:00 am and I have already been waiting three hours under the burning sun. I am not sure whether I will be able to cross today. I will keep trying because I do not have any other option and do not want to lose my ability to move. I want to start taking care of my children again.


Despite the official reopening of the Rafah border crossing, movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip, including from and to other parts of the oPt, remains severely limited. Movement of people through Erez Crossing is still generally prohibited for all those who do not fall under specific authorized categories, such as humanitarian workers, businessmen and traders, and ‘humanitarian cases’ , including patients. The number of people who could leave the Gaza Strip though Erez in June 2011 (4,455) follows the monthly average since the beginning of the year, when 4,318 people per month

    Rise in approvals for permit
    requests by patients
    Patients from Gaza who are referred to hospitals in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) or Israel, must apply for a special permit issued by the Israeli authorities, in order to leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing. In 2010, the monthly rate of approvals of permit applications averaged 78 percent, while an average of almost six percent of applications were rejected and another 16 percent delayed (meaning that the patient lost the appointment and had to reapply). In the first half of 2011 there was a gradual increase in the rate of approval with a monthly average of 88 percent, 2 percent of rejections and 10 percent of applications delayed.

Essential medications and medical
disposables still out of stock in
Gaza

In May and June, World Health Organization (WHO) drew attention to the severe and ongoing shortage of drugs and medical disposables in the Gaza Strip. Out of the 480 medications on the essential drug list, 140 (29 percent) were out of stock in Gaza on 30 June 2011, in addition to 150 out of 700 medical disposables (21 percent). Although shipments received in June have somewhat improved stocks since May, when 178 (37 percent) drug items and 190 (27 percent) medical disposables were out of stock, the situation still raises serious concerns.

The Ministry of Health, based in Ramallah, is responsible for providing drugs and medical disposables to MoH facilities in Gaza. The irregular and insufficient shipments that have been reported in the last months are due to the shortages faced by the MoH itself in the West Bank, in part as a result of concerns expressed by suppliers about receiving payments in the aftermath of the political conciliation between Fatah and Hamas in April 2011.

According to WHO, while the shortage of essential drugs has been a chronic problem since 2007, the protracted situation of low stocks further hampers the ability to deliver health care. Out-of-stock medications include antibiotics for acute infections, chronic diseases, chemotherapy, analgesics, psychotherapeutics, medications for blood disorders, for ophthalmological disorders, for immunity disorders and antidotes. Needed medical disposables include syringes, Central Venus Pressure devices, ECG and CTG paper, X-Ray film, gauze, etc.

Coping mechanisms include patients seeking available medications from other health providers, buying them in the local market at a greater cost or using inappropriate alternative medications. More importantly, many hospitals have been forced to curtail or stop the delivery of a number of surgeries or treatments, such as for cancer, cardiovascular and orthopedic diseases, and began to recycle used medical disposables, such as tubes and gloves, increasing the risk of cross-infections. In the most severe or urgent cases, patients are referred to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip.

The shortage of drugs and medical disposables is compounded by a general deterioration of the Strip’s health system since the imposition of a blockade on Gaza. Due to the restrictions on movement of people and goods, most students, doctors and medical staff cannot leave the Strip for training, the import of critical spare parts for medical equipment is affected by recurrent and prolonged delays, while the transferring of equipment out of Gaza for maintenance has been extremely difficult; frequent power cuts also hamper the regular functioning of hospitals.


End notes
























Complete document in PDF format (Requires Acrobat Reader)

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter