Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
occupied Palestinian territory
25 November – 8 December 2009
Latest Developments since Tuesday, 8 December
United Nations humanitarian agencies, along with international and national non-governmental organisations operating in the oPt, appealed for US $664.4 million to fund 236 humanitarian assistance programmes in 2010. These programmes respond to the humanitarian situation in the oPt, targeting the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank where the Barrier, Israeli settlements and access and planning restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities affect livelihoods.
The number of Influenza A (H1N1) deaths reached six in the Gaza Strip. As of 10 December, WHO reports 110 suspected cases of H1N1, 37 of which are confirmed, while eight have recovered.
Rafah Crossing was exceptionally opened on December 10 to allow 82 Palestinian students admitted to Egyptian universities to enter Egypt. Nearly 670 other students registered in other universities abroad are still waiting to exit.
On the same day, one truckload of 30,000 carnation exited Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing. This is the first export from Gaza since 27 April 2009.
Military activities affecting civilians; 11 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces
Israeli forces injured 11 Palestinians in various incidents throughout the West Bank during the reporting period. Since the beginning of 2009, a total of 24 Palestinians were killed and 727 others injured in the context of Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
On 26 November, Israeli forces shot and critically injured a Palestinian man after he stabbed two Israeli settlers (a man and a woman) at a gas station, next to Kiryat Arba settlement, east of Hebron City. Video footage of the incident showed a settler repeatedly running over the man by a four-wheel drive vehicle after being shot.
Five Palestinians sustained injuries during the weekly anti-Barrier demonstrations in Ni’lin and Bil’in villages of Ramallah that took place on two consecutive Fridays during the reporting period; four were wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets and one by live ammunition. Four Israeli border policemen were also wounded when hit by stones, three in Bil’in and one in Ni’lin. The remaining five injuries occurred when physically assaulted by Israeli forces; three were wounded during Israeli search operations in the village of Husan (Bethlehem) and in Al ‘Arrub refugee camp (Hebron), one in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2), and one at a flying checkpoint erected near Kharbatha Al Misbah village (Ramallah). In addition, the IDF reported that masked Palestinians attacked an Israeli military vehicle near Yitzhar settlement on 26 November (Nablus).
Israeli forces conducted 61 search operations inside Palestinian villages, the majority of which took place in the northern West Bank (31). This compares to a weekly average of around 100 operations since the beginning of 2009. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded when Palestinians hurled stones at them during a search operation in Shu’fat refugee camp on 3 December. In an operation that took place in Beit Ummar village (Hebron), a number of houses were damaged during the arrest of five Palestinians by Israeli forces.
Settlers continue to take over Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem
Attempts by settlers to take over Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem continue. On 1 December, Israeli settlers accompanied by the Israeli police took over an uninhabited portion of a house belonging to a Palestinian family of 12 in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. During the incident, which occurred pursuant to an Israeli court order, the family’s furniture and belongings were thrown out onto the street. A total of three Palestinian members of the affected family, along with two settlers were injured in the context of the incident, as tensions ran high during the days surrounding the settlers’ take over of the property. Eight other Palestinians and one international observer were arrested by the Israeli police.
In early November, settlers had briefly taken over the same portion of the house, but were later dispersed. November incident follow settler take-overs of two Palestinian houses in the same area in August 2009, under similar circumstances, resulting in the displacement of 53 Palestinians. During the period, two demonstrations took place in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli, Palestinian and international activists protesting the take-over.
Also in the same neighbourhood, two Palestinian families received letters on 4 December from the lawyer of a settler group requesting that they either prove ownership of their home by 15 December or leave their residences and handover the keys, or face a legal suit. These recent developments bring the number of refugee families at direct threat of forced eviction and displacement in Sheikh Jarrah to eight in total, potentially affecting as many as 120 people.
Other settler-related incidents
During the reporting period, a total of 37 settler-related incidents took place throughout the West Bank, the majority of which affected Palestinians (24), resulting in injury to two Palestinians. The remaining 13 incidents affected Israeli settlers, resulting in injury to five settlers.
During the period, the Israeli media reported that the Israeli military is concerned about possible attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian communities, in the context of their objections to the limited 10-month freeze on new residential construction in West Bank settlements (excluding East Jerusalem), announced by the Israeli cabinet in late November 2009.
OCHA recorded over ten incidents, the majority in the northern West Bank, where settlers hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles driving on the main roads in protest of the freeze. On 29 November, dozens of young Israeli settlers blocked Road 1, near the entrance of Mishor Adumim settlement, the main road connecting Jerusalem and Jericho, with stones and roadblocks; the road was later reopened by Israeli Police. Moreover, on 8 December, settlers slashed the tires of 17 cars belonging to Palestinian residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Also, in four separate incidents, settlers from the settlements of Hallamish, Beit Arye and Ma’ale Levona (Ramallah) clashed with the Israeli Civil Administration when the latter handed out construction freeze orders, resulting in the injury of a settler woman.
In three separate incidents during the period, four settlers were wounded when Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli-plated vehicles driving near the Palestinian villages of Deir Nidham and Sinjil and Qalandiya checkpoint (Ramallah) and in Husan village (Bethlehem). Also, in three separate incidents, Palestinians hurled five Molotov cocktail towards settlers driving on West Bank roads near the villages of Sinjil, Beitin and Ni’lin (Ramallah) and Madama (Nablus) and near Qalqiliya City. No injuries or damage to cars were reported. Following most of the incidents, Israeli forces conducted search operations in the villages. In addition, the IDF reported during these two weeks that there were 12 incidents of stone throwing by Palestinians at Israeli vehicles, resulting in no injuries.
Approximately 2,450 Palestinian structures in Area C demolished in the last 12 years
According to information released by the Israeli State Attorney’s Office in early December 2009, approximately 2,450 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C have been demolished due to lack of building permit over the course of the past 12 years, or an average of some 200 per year. During the same period, the Israeli authorities demolished 1,230 “illegal” buildings belonging to Israelis. These figures were released as part of the State Attorney’s Office’s response to claims by an Israeli settler organization, “Regavim”, that the Office acts immediately when it comes to demolishing “illegally” constructed buildings belonging to Israelis in the West Bank, but fails to do the same in Palestinian communities.
“Regavim” has previously launched appeals to the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) calling on it to intervene in order to force the State to carryout outstanding demolition orders against “illegal” Palestinian-owned structures in Area C. Thus far, in 2009, OCHA has recorded the Israeli authorities’ demolition of 180 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, displacing 319 Palestinians, including 167 children. There have been no demolitions in Area C since mid-July. During the reporting period, no demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in either Area C or East Jerusalem were recorded by OCHA.
Easing of movement restrictions during the Muslim holiday, Eid al Adha
During the Eid Al Adha holiday between 27 and 30 November, the Israeli authorities implemented a number of steps to ease Palestinian movement in the northern West Bank including increased opening hours of crossings as well as the opening of a gate connecting Jenin and Tulkarm governorates, which had been closed since August 2005. While opening hours returned to the pre-Eid schedule, the gate continues to be open.
Also during the reporting period, Israeli forces removed three earth mounds in the Nablus (two) and Bethlehem (one) governorates. The removal of the closures in the Nablus governorate allows residents of two affected villages, Majdal Bani Fadel and Osarin, to access the main roads of 448 and 505. The removal of the Bethlehem closure, located along an underpass, allows residents of Al Khader village to reconnect with western Bethlehem villages. To date, over 540 obstacles to movement remain across the West Bank.
Israeli air strikes continue
On 27 November, Israeli air forces targeted and hit a group of alleged Palestinian militants, east of Jabaliya, injuring four of them. Israeli airstrikes were also launched against tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border resulting in no injuries; one Palestinian, however, died during the period when a tunnel collapsed. Since the end of Israel’s “Cast Lead” offensive, a total of 85 Palestinians were killed and 134 others injured in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Israeli forces continue to prevent Palestinian access into areas next to the Gaza-Israel border and beyond a fishing area of three nautical miles from the shore, through opening warning fire towards people entering or approaching these areas. In one incident, Israeli troops opened warning fire at farmers in the Deir Al Balah area next to the border fence, forcing them to leave their land. Also, on five separate occasions, Israeli forces launched an incursion a few hundred metres into the border areas and withdrew after conducting land-leveling and excavation operations. During the reporting period, Israeli naval forces opened fire towards Palestinian fishing boats on five different occasions, forcing boats to return to shore.
Palestinian factions have continued to fire mortar shells and rudimentary rockets towards southern Israel, including military bases, resulting in no injury or damage to property.
In four separate incidents, one Palestinian died and four others sustained injuries, including a 14-year-old boy, while dealing with explosive devices or when explosive devices exploded prematurely. Also during the period, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a ten-year-old child was found dead while handcuffed with visible signs of physical abuse in the central Gaza Strip. Circumstances around the child’s death remain unclear.
First confirmed cases of H1N1 in the Gaza Strip
On 6 December, WHO confirmed nine cases of Influenza A (H1N1) (affecting five adults and four children; six females and three males). Of the confirmed cases, there were three deaths (two females and one four-month-old female child). These are the first reported cases of Influenza A (H1N1) in the Gaza Strip. Currently, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza (MoH) reports that 5,000 pilgrims and 1,000 health workers received Influenza A (H1N1) vaccines; vaccinations for the remaining workers as well as the public will take place upon receipt of additional supplies of the vaccination in Gaza. In addition, the MoH in Gaza has 6,300 courses of Tamiflu tablets for treatment. WHO reports that it currently has sufficient laboratory kits to test 300 samples. As of 6 December 2009, WHO reported that there were over 1,250 laboratory-confirmed cases of Influenza A (H1N1) from the West Bank, and nine deaths.
Additional restrictions facing Gazans wishing to exit Gaza through the Erez Crossing
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported on 6 December that the Gaza Ministry of Interior (MoI) has introduced new regulations requiring Palestinians wishing to exit the Gaza Strip to obtain an exit permit. The new measure is being enforced by the Palestinian police in Gaza on all Palestinians wishing to cross Erez Crossing.
According to investigations by PCHR, the Palestinian police stationed at the Customs Checkpoint near Erez Crossing prevented on 7 December 37 patients and their companions from travelling to hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, on the grounds that these patients did not have exit permits from the “Office of Traveling Registration” in the Gaza Ministry of Interior. The patients had to return to this office to apply for permission, delaying their medical treatment. On 9 December, after various interventions, the Ministry of Interior announced that patients no longer need special permits to exit Gaza through Erez Crossing. Patients are reported crossing without incident related to the new permit requirement; restrictions remain in place for other Palestinian travellers.
Fuel Update; serious concern over Kerem Shalom crossing's lack of capacity for the entry of cooking gas
Nahal Oz fuel pipelines continued to operate on only one out of five scheduled days, while fuel pipelines located at the Kerem Shalom Crossing operated on four days, with the latter allowing entry of reduced quantities of cooking gas due to insufficient capacity (weekly average of 159 tonnes vs. 289 tonnes). While there was an overall increase in the weekly average amount of cooking gas (448 tonnes) that entered during the reporting period, compared to the previous period (298 tonnes), this constituted only 32 percent of the weekly needs, as estimated by the Gas Stations Owners Association (GSOA). There is serious concern over the increased usage of Kerem Shalom for the entry of cooking gas, given that crossing’s lack of capacity.
As a result of shortages of cooking gas, a gas rationing scheme is being implemented throughout the Gaza Strip, in which quantities of gas available at the Palestinian General Petroleum Corporation (PPC) is being distributed to bakeries and hospitals as a priority.
A weekly average amount of 2.46 million litres of industrial fuel entered Gaza this week, constituting approximately 78 percent of the weekly amount of fuel needed to operate the Gaza Power Plant. According to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO), scheduled rolling blackouts continue to affect the majority of the population, at a rate of 6-8 hours, three-four days a week. Over 40,000 people remain without electricity, as networks, which sustained severe damage during Israel’s “Cast Lead” offensive, have not yet been repaired, due to restrictions on the entry of needed supplies.
No Israeli petrol or diesel entered Gaza during the two-week period. Egyptian petrol and diesel, which is transferred through the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, remain available on the open market, with nearly 100,000 litres of diesel and 100,000 litres of petrol transferred into Gaza per day.
Weekly average of imported truckloads remain below needs
During the reporting period, a weekly average of 594 truckloads of goods entered Gaza which despite a slight increase compared to the previous reporting period constitutes around 21 percent of the weekly average of truckloads that entered during the first five months of 2007 (2,807), before the Hamas takeover.
Similar to previous weeks, food and hygiene items made up the majority of imported goods – 506 truckloads or 85 percent of total imports. The remaining 15 percent included agricultural materials (nine percent) and limited shipments of non-edible consumables, medical supplies and stationery. A limited number of truckloads carrying new items entered this week, including canned food, thyme, coffee, tea, candles and nylon covers for greenhouses. In addition, six truckloads of electrical spare parts for the GEDCO, including transformers, were allowed entry between 22 November and 5 December, for the first time since 30 July 2009.
Entry of other major essential goods including materials for reconstruction (cement, steel bars, glass, wood and others), spare parts for water and sanitation projects, other electrical materials, IT equipment and vehicles remain either restricted to limited quantities, or barred from entry. No exports were allowed exit from Gaza this week.