IMPACT OF THE CRISIS

OVERVIEW

A protracted protection crisis continues in the oPt, which remains largely attributable to Israel’s ongoing occupation, now in its 52nd year, the continuing internal Palestinian divide and violations of international law. After years of a rel­ative absence of armed conflict since the 2014 hostilities, there has been a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian, human rights, security and political situation in the Gaza Strip in 2018. The health system, on the verge of collapse following years of blockade and de-development, is now overburdened with massive casualties from the ongoing “Great March of Return” demonstrations. The economy is in ‘free fall’ according to the World Bank,’ and poverty, unemployment and food insecurity are increasing, as are other core drivers of humanitarian need. For much of 2018, power cuts of 18-20 hours a day have impeded the delivery of basic services and crippled productive activity: since late October, the delivery of fuel funded by Qatar has provided a significant, if temporary, improvement in the elec­tricity supply. Hospitals, water and sewage treatment facilities, and solid waste collection services are still reliant on UN-coordinated emergency fuel to maintain essential services. The coastal aquifer, Gaza’s sole water source, has been virtually depleted by over-extraction and the intrusion of seawater, forcing the impoverished population to buy trucked water, often of poor quality, at up to 20 times the expense of water from the network.2 There is a pal­pable sense of hopelessness and desperation among the population in Gaza, which is eroding coping mechanisms and resilience, while rising violence and tension are fuelling concerns of a renewed escalation of hostilities. This deterioration is exacerbated by significant shortfalls in donor support for the Palestinian Authority (PA), UNRWA and humanitarian operations in general, undermining the ability of the international community to effectively respond to increasing need.

While the humanitarian situation in the West Bank is less acute, economic growth there is also slowing down. Israel’s direct military occupation continues and with it the appropriation of land and resources. The PA is prevented from operating in East Jerusalem and Area C, which represent more than 60 per cent of the West Bank and contain the most valuable natural resources. A coercive environment intensifies, driven by demolitions, forced evictions, discrim­inatory planning, access restrictions, settlement expansion and settler violence, generating a risk of forcible transfer for many Palestinians in Area C, East Jerusalem and the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city, H2. New legislation and administrative steps, if implemented, risk significantly limiting the ability of individuals and human rights organi­zations to challenge the demolition or seizure of Palestinian properties in Area C and in East Jerusalem.3 The failure to resolve the intra-Palestinian political divide is deepening territorial and political fragmentation and contributing to cynicism and hopelessness among Palestinian youth. All of these developments are accompanied by unprecedented shortfalls in funding, alongside growing restrictions and attacks on humanitarian partners, which are generating an increasingly constrained operational context.

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