The second week of December 2017 has been marked by heightened unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The 6 December announcement concerning the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel triggered widespread demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces.
In the Gaza Strip, another winter season brings with it the threat of temporary displacement, property losses and health risks due to flooding and poor housing conditions. Insufficient funding, import restrictions, the ongoing energy crisis and the limited capacity of the Palestinian Civil Defense (PCD) are key factors that hinder the ability of the relevant actors to reduce vulnerability and respond effectively.
November marked the beginning of the peak season for the export of high-value cash crops such as strawberries. Growth in agricultural trade from the Gaza Strip in 2017 is encouraging news within an economic context characterized by sluggish growth and unemployment peaking at 46.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2017.
Intense military training exercises over the past two months and the obstruction of key access routes have exacerbated the coercive environment imposed on approximately 1,300 residents of 12 Palestinian herding communities in southern Hebron.
The 2017 olive harvest season, which lasted roughly from mid-September to mid-November, was reported to have proceeded relatively smoothly. However, an increase in incidents of settler violence, including theft of and damage to olive trees, and restrictions on access to olive groves behind the Barrier and near Israeli settlements, continue to pose challenges for Palestinian farmers.
On 1 November, the Hamas authorities handed over control of the Erez, Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings to the Palestinian Government of National Consensus. This is the most significant practical step so far towards the implementation of the reconciliation agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas on 12 October 2017, with Egyptian facilitation. The agreement points the way to a possible end to the decade-long internal Palestinian divide and to an improvement in living conditions in the Gaza Strip, including a potential lifting of the Israeli blockade.
Ongoing electricity outages of 18-20 hours a day across the Gaza Strip throughout September and October continue to undermine the provision of basic services. In the water, sanitation and hygiene sector (WASH), sustained efforts by humanitarian agencies to provide 154 critical facilities with emergency fuel to run backup generators resulted in a limited improvement in some key indicators during September compared with previous months. There was a modest increase in the quantity of piped water supplied to households and in the functioning of desalination plants, plus a slight decline in the contamination levels of sewage discharged to the sea. Nevertheless, September indicators remain well below the already poor standards recorded during the first quarter of 2017.
The seizure of privately owned Palestinian land to establish and expand Israeli settlements has been a common phenomenon from the beginning of the Israeli occupation. In recent years, these actions have been conducted primarily by Israeli settlers without an official permit or authorization, but often with the acquiescence and active support of the Israeli authorities. The resulting loss of property and sources of livelihood, restricted access to services, and a range of protection threats have triggered demand for assistance and protection measures by the humanitarian community.
In October, legal cases filed with the Israeli HCJ in relation to four Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley ruled in favour of demolitions due to lack of building permits, which are rarely granted by the Israeli authorities for Palestinians. Consequently, more than 200 structures, 26 per cent of which were donor-funded, in the communities of Makhul, Humsa al-Baqai’a, al Farisiya-Ihmayyer and al Farisiya-Nabe al Ghazal are under threat of demolition. An estimated 171 people, over 50 per cent of whom are children, are at imminent risk of displacement. Demolitions or the threat of demolitions, along with discriminatory planning policies that make it near impossible for Palestinian residents of Area C to obtain authorization for construction, are among the Israeli policies identified by the Secretary-General as generating a coercive environment that puts pressure on Palestinians to leave their communities and creates a risk of forcible transfer.
Driven by ongoing electricity outages of 18-20 hours a day, an unresolved salary crisis in the public sector, and a blockade restricting the movement of people and goods, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remains extremely precarious.