HUMANITARIAN OVERVIEW 2013
This is the third 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 Humanitarian Overview document. This annual report aims to provide 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 previous years’ reports, 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 2013, these priorities remain Accountability; Life, Liberty & Security; Forced Displacement; Movement & Access; and Humanitarian Space. The report is structured around these priorities, with the issue of accountability addressed throughout the report. In addition, concerns related to the main clusters and sectors — Health and Nutrition; Education; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); and the Food Security — are detailed in separate chapters at the end of the report, which were provided by the relevant cluster/sector focal points.
As with all OCHA reports, the Humanitarian Overview 2013 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.
The Way Forward 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 &
In 2013 the number of Palestinian fatalities dropped significantly compared to 2012 (38 vs. 272), primarily a result of the absence of a major escalation in hostilities in the Gaza Strip. By contrast, Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank increased significantly to 27, compared to eight in 2012. As an indication of growing tension in the West Bank, more Palestinians were injured in Palestinian-Israeli conflict-related violence in 2013 than in any other year since 2005, 3,735 vs. 3,039 in 2012. There was a marked rise in injuries from rubber-coated metal bullets, which at 41 per
cent is the same percentage as those injured by tear gas inhalation. There were four Israeli fatalities in West Bank in 2013, compared to none in 2012.
Regarding settler violence, the number of incidents resulting in Palestinian injuries (93) and damage to Palestinian private property (306) represented an eight per cent increase compared to 2012. Although the context in which civilians are killed or injured and their property destroyed and damaged varies, the common denominator affecting Palestinians victims of unlawful acts of violence is a pervasive crisis of accountability, characterized by the absence of effective remedies for violations — primarily effective investigations and redress for victims.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the forced displacement of Palestinians is driven by a number of occupation-related policies. Overall in 2013, the number of structures demolished increased from 604 in 2012 to 663, a rise of approximately 10 per cent. The number of persons displaced increased by almost 25 per cent, from 886 to 1,103.
In Area C, the demolition of homes, animal shelters and essential infrastructure due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits is the main trigger for displacement, as a consequence of the restrictive zoning and planning regime applied by the Israeli authorities. The number of structures demolished in Area C increased compared to 2012, (565 vs. 540), leading to the displacement of 805 people, including 405 children. The number of structures demolished in the Jordan Valley more than doubled compared to 2012 (from 172 to 390). There was also a significant increase (54per cent) in the Israeli military’s demolition of donor-funded assistance in Area C; 122 such structures were destroyed, up from 79 in 2012. In East Jerusalem, the number of structures demolished increased by over fifty per cent compared to 2012, 98 vs. 64, with the number of persons displaced increasing by 320 per cent, 298 vs.71.
Displacement in the Gaza Strip has primarily resulted from recurring outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups. As there was no major escalation in 2013, no conflict-related displacement was recorded, although winter storms in December brought heavy flooding, resulting in the temporary displacement of approximately 6,000 people.
and Access of
Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the oPt by a combination of physical obstacles, including checkpoints and roadblocks; and by bureaucratic constraints, such as permits and by the designation of areas as closed or restricted. Compounding longstanding Israeli policies, movement and access in the Gaza Strip deteriorated significantly in the second part of 2013, following new Egyptian restrictions on the movement of travellers via the Rafah Crossing. As a result of the new measures, the number of Palestinians crossing through Rafah declined by 28 per cent compared to 2012. The number of Palestinians permitted by Israel to cross through Erez increased by 17 per cent overall compared to 2012, but this was not enough to compensate for the restrictions on pedestrian traffic through Rafah.
From July onwards the Egyptian authorities also closed the vast majority of the smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, which were primarily used to smuggle construction materials for the private sector and subsidised Egyptian fuel. This led to a sharp spike in unemployment, an increase in food prices, and chronic electricity shortages resulting from interruptions to the operation of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), severely disrupting the provision of basic services. In September the Israeli authorities increased the number of truckloads for commercial use allowed in through Kerem Shalom , as a partial response to the lack of construction materials on the private market. However, in October, following the discovery of an underground tunnel, the Israeli authorities halted the entry of basic construction materials for both the commercial sector and for international organizations; the entry of construction materials for the latter was partially resumed in December.
Since 2007, the Israeli authorities have almost completely restricted exports from the Gaza Strip to Israel and transfers to the West Bank, with only a minimal amount of agricultural produces, furniture and garments permitted to world markets. In 2013, there was a significant decline in the amount of exports, 160 truckloads as opposed to 254 in 2012; and transfers to the West Bank, 23 truckloads compared to 38 in 2012.
Citing security concerns, the Israeli military has also imposed restrictions on access to farmland on the Gaza side of the fence, and to fishing areas along the Gaza Strip coast — the Access Restricted Areas (ARAs). Following the November 2012 ceasefire agreement significant improvement was recorded in access to areas near the fence, but uncertainty concerning the new arrangements has limited improvements in livelihoods. In 2013, fishermen also continue to be affected by shooting and confiscation incidents in the context of the enforcement of access restrictions by the Israeli Navy.
In the West Bank, some of the long-standing physical obstacles impeding movement into Hebron and Ramallah were eased, significantly improving access into these key urban hubs. However, checkpoints and the Barrier continue to impede Palestinian access throughout the West Bank, including into East Jerusalem, despite some easing of restrictions into the city during Ramadan. Little change was registered in the restrictions affecting Palestinian access to large agricultural areas, in particular, land behind the Barrier. Palestinian communities which have land within, or adjacent to Israeli settlements and settlement outposts continue to face access problems, in addition to attacks on their persons and property.
Throughout 2013, humanitarian organizations continued to face a range of obstacles which hampered their ability to provide assistance and protection to Palestinians in need across the oPt. These obstacles include physical and administrative restrictions on the access and movement of (I)NGO and UN personnel, especially national employees; restrictions on the delivery of materials needed for humanitarian projects; and limitations on the implementation of projects that involve building, expanding or rehabilitating infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Area C of the West Bank.
The Israeli permit process, approval rate and processing time for the movement of both international and national staff in and out of Gaza has improved considerably over the
last few years. However, the Israeli approval, coordination and verification process for international reconstruction projects remains problematic, resulting in lengthy delays to implementation and increasing costs. Humanitarian operations were also hindered by demands by the Hamas de facto authorities in Gaza for compliance with a range of administrative procedures affecting INGOs, and the ‘no contact’ policy adopted by certain countries and donors, which prohibits contact with the de facto authorities, even on an operational level. Humanitarian operations in Gaza were also hampered by political and security developments in Egypt and the consequent severe restrictions on movement though Rafah.
In the West Bank, the easing of physical closures has improved humanitarian access, with the number of access incidents at checkpoints, staff affected and related loss of working hours declining in 2013. However, national humanitarian personnel continue to face limitations imposed by Israel on their ability to access and work in East Jerusalem. Physical and administrative restrictions also continue to impede access to some of the most vulnerable communities living in Area C of the West Bank, and particularly the ‘Seam Zone’ and closed military areas. In Area C, the implementation of humanitarian assistance projects that requires some form of construction or rehabilitation continues to be severely hampered by the permit regime applied by the Israeli authorities; 2013, there was a significant increase in the Israeli military’s demolition of donor-funded assistance, in addition to the Israeli military’s seizure of donor-funded assistance, mainly residential shelters.
The situation described in this report is a protection-based 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, ensure their basic needs are met and people are able to enjoy their human rights. 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 parties to the conflict must fulfil their legal obligations to ensure the protection of all civilians during hostilities and ensure accountability for acts in contravention of the laws of armed conflict.
- Third 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.
Document Type: Arabic text, Report, Status report
Document Sources: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Subject: Access and movement, Armed conflict, Assistance, Casualties, Children, Closures/Curfews/Blockades, Economic issues, Education and culture, Fence, Gaza Strip, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Humanitarian relief, Internally displaced persons, Jerusalem, Land, Living conditions, Prisoners and detainees, Separation barrier, Settlements, Wall
Publication Date: 31/12/2013