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Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
31 May 2013
HUMANITARIAN OVERVIEW 2012
This is the second year in which the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has outlined the key humanitarian concerns in the occupied Palestinian territory in one
document. This annual report aims to serve as a comprehensive overview or ‘snapshot’ of the humanitarian situation in the oPt in a given year, to monitor trends and developments, and to inform policy and programming.
As with last year’s report, the concerns outlined in the present report reflect the advocacy priorities identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), the main humanitarian coordinating body for UN agencies and Non Governmental Organization (NGO) partners in the oPt. In 2012, these priorities remain
Life, Liberty & Security
Movement & Access
. The report is structured around these priorities, with the issue of accountability addressed throughout the report. In addition, concerns related to the main clusters – Health; Education; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); and Food/Livelihood – are detailed in separate chapters at the end of the report, which were provided by the relevant cluster focal points.
As with all OCHA reports, the Humanitarian Overview 2012 is based on data collated and crossed checked from multiple sources including OCHA , UN agencies, international NGOs, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and, where possible, government sources. To the extent possible, the data is correct at the time of publication.
addresses the need for improved accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the oPt. There is a crisis of accountability in the oPt - the failure to hold all parties to the conflict to account for violations of international law, contributes to a culture of impunity and repeated threats to the enjoyment of human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people. Israel, as the occupying power, bears the primary responsibility for the protection of the civilian population and ensuring their basic needs are met, but all parties to the conflict must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. In addition, all states share responsibility for ensuring respect for international humanitarian law in the oPt and promoting compliance with human rights obligations. The sections at the end of each chapter identify immediate and longer-term actions that need to be implemented by a range of stakeholders to improve the humanitarian situation and to remedy the protection concerns.
Life, Liberty &
Palestinian civilians throughout the oPt continue to be exposed to a range of threats to their lives, liberty and security as a result of conflict and the ongoing occupation. In 2012, the majority of Palestinian fatalities resulted from conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip, largely due to the escalation in hostilities in November. Nearly 70 per cent of Palestinians killed in 2012 were civilians, compared to 45 per cent in 2011. The number of Palestinians injured in the Gaza Strip was also significantly higher than in previous years, although the West Bank still accounted for the majority of Palestinian injuries. These injuries doubled compared to 2011, mainly as a result of a significant increase in tear gas inhalation during demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. The number of Palestinians held in detention, including children, increased and failure to respect due process and fair trials remain serious concerns. Although the context in which civilians are killed or injured and their property destroyed and damaged vary, the common denominator affecting victims of unlawful acts of violence is a pervasive crisis of accountability and the lack of an effective remedy for victims of violence on both sides.
Forced displacement of Palestinians continued in 2012 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Gaza Strip. The causes of displacement in Gaza included recurring hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, as well as forced evictions by the de facto authorities. In the West Bank, forced displacement is driven by a number of occupation-related policies, linked to settlement activity and the restrictive zoning and planning regime in Area C, which prioritizes settlement growth at the expense of the development needs of Palestinian communities. In Area C, demolitions of homes and livelihood-related structures due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits are the main immediate cause of displacement. In 2012, the number of demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures, 540, was almost as high as 2011 (571), which marked the highest number since OCHA started systematically collating statistics in 2008. Other policies, including restrictions on access to services and resources, the allocation of land for settlements, firing zones and nature reserves, and settler violence also increase the risk of displacement among vulnerable farming and herding communities. In East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents are at risk of displacement as a result of home demolitions, forced eviction and takeover of their property by settler organizations, and the lack of secure residency status. The year 2012 witnessed an increase both in the number of structures demolished (64) and in Palestinians displaced due to forced evictions (22), and the continuing revocation of the residency status of East Jerusalem Palestinians.
and Access of
The movement of Palestinians within the oPt is restricted by a combination of physical obstacles – including checkpoints and roadblocks – and by bureaucratic constraints, such as permits and by designating areas as closed or restricted to Palestinians. These impede access to basic services – health and education – and livelihoods of the civilian population, and the ability of local and international organizations to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable populations. These restrictions compound the fragmentation of the oPt and impact on a range of rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of self-determination.
In the Gaza Strip, there was some improvement in pedestrian access through the Erez Crossing but movement to the West Bank continues to be denied for the vast majority of Gazans, whose main access to the outside world is increasingly through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing. The volume of imports through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom increased in 2012, but exports declined slightly. Israeli restrictions continued to limit Palestinian access to homes and agricultural land near the fence with Israel and access of fishermen to the Mediterranean Sea, although some improvement was recorded following the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November.
In the West Bank, the easing of certain restrictions reduced the travel time for nearly 100,000 villagers to six main cities; however, approximately 55 Palestinian communities are still compelled to use long detours to reach the closest city. Although there was a significant improvement in movement of vehicles in the Jordan Valley, little change was registered in the restrictions affecting Palestinian access to large agricultural areas, including those located behind the Barrier, and in the vicinity of Israeli settlements. Despite easings during Ramadan, access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continued to be restricted by the Barrier, the checkpoints and the permit system. The application of these access restrictions is discriminatory, targeting mostly Palestinian residents, primarily for the benefit of the Israeli settler population.
Throughout 2012, humanitarian organizations continued to face a range of physical and administrative restrictions which hampered their ability to provide assistance and protection to Palestinians in need throughout the oPt. These obstacles primarily affected national employees, affecting in particular their ability to enter and work in East Jerusalem. Humanitarian operations in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip were also hindered by difficulties in obtaining the required visa for international staff to enter and work in the oPt and in Israel.
Despite delays, the Israeli permit process, approval rate and processing time for permits for movement of both international and national staff into Gaza improved in 2012. The Israeli approval, coordination and verification process for international reconstruction projects in Gaza remained problematic, resulting in lengthy delays to implementation and increasing costs. Access to and from the Gaza Strip for humanitarian personnel was obstructed at times by the de facto authorities: humanitarian operations in Gaza continue to be hindered by the ‘no contact’ policy adopted by certain countries and donors, prohibiting contact with Hamas, even on an operational level.
Although the easing of physical closures has improved humanitarian access throughout large parts of the West Bank, physical and administrative restrictions continue to impede access to some of the most vulnerable communities in Area C and particularly those in the ‘Seam Zone’ and ‘Firing Zones’. In Area C and East Jerusalem, the implementation of humanitarian assistance projects involving some form of construction or rehabilitation, continued to be severely hampered by the permit regime applied by the Israeli authorities.
The HCT considers the situation described in this report a protectionbased crisis, resulting from ongoing conflict and occupation, a lack of respect for international law, limited accountability and a system of policies that severely undermine the ability of Palestinian communities to live normal, self-sustaining lives. Were these factors removed, Palestinians have all the capacity, organisation, training and motivation to develop their economy and their lives without large scale humanitarian interventions.
To achieve progress in this regard, a range of actions is required by all relevant parties, including:
Israel, the occupying power, must fulfil its primary obligations to protect the Palestinian civilian population and ensure their basic needs are met. This would include taking action to secure the physical protection of Palestinian civilians, ensure accountability for violence and abuse, and lifting restrictions on movement of people and goods, as well as on access to land and resources.
All other parties, including Palestinian armed groups and the Palestinian authorities, must fulfil their legal obligations to ensure the protection of all civilians during hostilities and accountability for violence and abuse.
All states share responsibility for ensuring respect for international humanitarian law in the oPt and promoting compliance with human rights obligations, and should take all necessary action stemming from that responsibility. In particular third party states must:
Promote accountability, including by demanding all duty bearers to investigate alleged violations of international law;
Take measures to ensure that states, citizens and corporations do not contribute to the commission of violations of international law, including in relation to the settlement enterprise..
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