|Developments during September highlighted some of the key challenges that humanitarian organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) encounter while providing assistance and protection to people affected by the occupation and conflict.|
In Area C of the West Bank, the Israeli authorities demolished during the month close to 100 Palestinian-owned structures lacking a building permit, resulting in the destruction and forced displacement of two small herding communities in the Jerusalem hills and in the Jordan Valley.1 In the latter case, attempts to provide post-demolition shelter assistance were repeatedly impeded by the Israeli authorities, who demolished or confiscated items delivered. In the past year, there has been a worrisome increase in the Israeli military’s demolition of humanitarian assistance: since the beginning of 2013, Israeli forces demolished 99 donor-funded structures, up from 79 in all of 2012.
This month also saw deterioration in access to education in the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city (H2), which included the temporary closure of some schools, the injury and arrest of school-age children, and declining school attendance. The usually tense situation in this area was exacerbated this month by the killing of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian sniper, as well as by the influx of tens of thousands of Israelis for the Jewish holidays. Humanitarian organizations providing protective presence reported that their interventions to facilitate the crossing of students and teachers through the Israeli checkpoints in this part of the city have been largely unsuccessful.
In the Gaza Strip, this month witnessed a positive development when the Israeli authorities began allowing 50 truckloads of construction materials to enter Gaza daily for commercial uses. To a limited degree, this amount compensated for the sharp reduction in the supply of such materials via the illegal tunnels under the border with Egypt. However, this development was short-lived. On 13 October, the Israeli authorities halted the entry of all types of construction materials, including for projects implemented by international organizations, following the discovery of a tunnel running from Gaza into Israel, for which Hamas claimed responsibility. If not lifted in the coming days, this new impediment would result in a suspension of critical projects in the area of services and infrastructures, as well as in the lay-off of workers, compounding the already fragile humanitarian situation.
Humanitarian organizations also continue to face mobility restrictions to their staff, including due to the application of a permit regime to national staff seeking access to East Jerusalem, as well as in and out of Gaza. While some agencies have nearly all their permit applications approved, others regularly encounter 100 per cent rejection of applications. In the Gaza Strip, the work of international NGO s has continued to be impeded also by the de-facto authorities, including due to demands related to the application of tax regulations, as well as due to the linkage created between these demands and the issuance of exit permits.
On the other hand, September also provided some examples of opportunities available for successful intervention by humanitarian actors. One such case is related to the issue of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. Following the publication of a study on this subject earlier this year, UNICEF began intensive engagement with the Israeli authorities to discuss the implementation of its recommendations. This initiative recently led to a number of related announcements by the Israeli military, including the testing of a summons procedure in lieu of night arrests, during which incidents of abuse of children are being regularly reported.
Also this month, in advance of the start of the annual olive harvest season, the humanitarian community initiated a range of activities aimed at supporting Palestinian olive growers affected by Israeli settler violence. These included the conduct of a comprehensive needs assessment, which resulted in the identification of over 500 families that sustained damage to olive groves since 2011 for cash assistance. Additionally, the Protection Cluster coordinated a protective presence intervention in areas affected by settler violence involving 11 organizations to be implemented during this harvest season.
Under international humanitarian law, an occupying power is responsible for ensuring that the basic needs of the population under occupation are met. It is also obliged to respect and protect humanitarian staff and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.