Participants in the 27 September meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), the minister-level gathering of oPt donors, in New York, were unanimous regarding the disastrous humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Among other remarks, The World Bank warned that the Gaza economy “is in free fall registering minus 6 percent growth in the first quarter of 2018, and an unemployment rate of 53 percent (over 70 percent for youth) … Given that every second person in Gaza lived below the poverty line before these latest developments, the deterioration is alarming.”
Funding for humanitarian activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is at an all-time low. At the end of September, only $159 million had been secured of a requested $539.7 million for the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), the multi-agency strategy and funding appeal for the humanitarian community in the oPt. Funding for the oPt HRP is at only 30 per cent, significantly lower than the current global average of 42 per cent.
Palestinians in Gaza who wish to exit the enclave can only do so through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing or the Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt. The Erez crossing is vitally important as it controls the movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank via Israel. Since the early 1990s, Palestinian residents of Gaza have required an exit permit to leave through Erez. Under a policy implemented since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 - and tightened after June 2007, citing security concerns, following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas - only people belonging to specific Israeli-defined categories are eligible for an exit permit, subject to a security check.
In July 2018, OCHA completed a comprehensive ‘closure survey’ that recorded 705 permanent obstacles across the West Bank restricting or controlling Palestinian vehicular, and in some cases pedestrian, movement. This figure is three per cent higher than in December 2016, the date of the previous survey. These obstacles are deployed by Israeli forces citing security concerns. The deployment of obstacles has become more flexible and, combined with the relatively low level of violence since the completion of the previous survey, has a less disruptive impact on the daily life of Palestinians travelling between Palestinian localities (excluding East Jerusalem and the H2 area of Hebron city) than previously.
With funding received through the Humanitarian Fund for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt HF), World Vision provided a 50-hour training course for 15 school counsellors from the southern Hebron area, including Susiya. The counsellors learned how to provide psychological support to students like Kasim, through extracurricular activities. The training was implemented as part of a project called “Building the Resilience of Vulnerable Schools.”
In 2017, with funding received through the Humanitarian Fund for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt HF), the Rural Women’s Development Society initiated a project aimed at providing Palestinian farmers in Gaza with solar alternatives to operate irrigation wells and pumping systems.
This month’s Bulletin is again devoted to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, except for one article dealing with the upcoming olive harvest in the West Bank. Between 9 July and 15 August, the Israeli authorities tightened the blockade on Gaza, severely restricting the movement of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel, and reducing the permissible fishing area by sea to three nautical miles. According to the Israeli authorities, the tightened restrictions were adopted in response to security incidents along the fence and the launching of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza, which have resulted in extensive property damage in Israel. Only food, medical supplies and animal fodder were allowed to enter into Gaza, while the exit of goods was entirely banned. The restrictions further undermined the already devastated economy, which in the second quarter of 2018 recorded the highest unemployment rate ever recorded in the Gaza Strip: 53.7 per cent.
Since 30 March 2018, Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip have increased significantly due to the mass demonstrations taking place along the perimeter fence with Israel and, to a lesser extent, hostilities and other incidents.
Between 9 July and 15 August, the Israeli authorities severely tightened restrictions on the movement of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel, and further reduced the area permitted for fishing at sea from six/nine to three nautical miles. According to the Israeli authorities, these measures were in response to the launching of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza into Israel that have resulted in extensive property damage. In May, over the course of the demonstrations, the crossing was set on fire and damaged twice by demonstrators, and closed for a few days on each occasion.
The 2018 olive harvest season will last approximately from mid-September to mid-November. However, a pest that infects olive trees, particularly in the norther West Bank, is expected to significantly reduce this year’s yield compared with 2017 (see box). In recent years, the olive harvest has also been affected negatively by Israeli settlers stealing or damaging olive trees, and by restrictions on access by Palestinian farmers to olive groves behind the Barrier and near Israeli settlements.