occupied Palestinian territory

Situation Report

Highlights

  • July 2019 recorded nearly 20,000 exits of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, a four-year high.
  • The increase in electricity supply in the Gaza Strip since October 2018 has improved the delivery of water and sanitation services
  • At least 1,200 people injured in Gaza demonstrations will require limb reconstruction
  • Daily police raids and clashes result in casualties and disruption of daily life in East Jerusalem neighbourhood
Al Amal neigbourhood in Gaza, 31 July 2019. © Photo by Oxfam
Al Amal neigbourhood in Gaza, 31 July 2019. © Photo by Oxfam

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Key Figures

23%
decline in water pollution levels
20K
Palestinian exits from the Erez crossing
1.2K
people injured will require surgery

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Funding

$350.6M
Required
$249.4M
Received
71%
Progress
FTS

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Main Office and West Bank Sub-Office



occupied Palestinian territory

Situation Report
Background
‘Issawiya, East Jerusalem (foreground), occupied West Bank and Hebrew University (background)
‘Issawiya, East Jerusalem (foreground), occupied West Bank and Hebrew University (background), 2013. © Photo by OCHA

Overview

July 2019 recorded nearly 20,000 exits of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, a four-year high. Almost two-thirds of these exits were by people carrying ‘traders’ permits, although many were reported to be labourers employed in Israel, whose entry has been officially banned since 2006. Also in July, the number of entries and exits to and from Gaza via the Rafah Crossing with Egypt (over 18,000) was the highest since 2014. Finally, almost 800 trucks of goods entered Gaza from Egypt through the Salah ad Din gate during the month, the largest figure recorded since this gate began operating in early 2018.

These trends took place amidst the continuation of the informal ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas, reached last May with Egyptian and UN mediation. As noted by UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov in his most recent Security Council briefing, “while these efforts are not enough to fundamentally change the harsh realities of life in Gaza, they serve to lessen the impact of the ongoing humanitarian and economic crises.” 

Despite this, the situation remains extremely fragile. During August, nine armed Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and five arrested following attempts to breach the fence. This occurred alongside the shooting of rockets into Israel, followed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, none of which led to casualties. On 26 August, also in response to rocket firing, Israel temporarily reduced the amount of Qatari-funded fuel allowed into Gaza by half, forcing the sole power plant operating there to turn off one of its turbines; this restriction was lifted a week later. The increased availability of electricity since the last quarter of 2018 has allowed some improvement in the living conditions, particularly regarding the provision of basic services.

One of this month’s Bulletin articles addresses the positive impact of this year’s increased availability of electricity in Gaza on the provision of water and sanitation. The supply of both piped water and of tankered desalinated water increased by up to 15 per cent. Additionally, the pollution levels of the wastewater discharged to the sea has declined significantly, reducing the risk of waterborne diseases and enabling the rehabilitation of additional beaches for swimming, one of the few recreational activities available to the population in the summer.

The continuation of the calm was also reflected in the relatively low level of casualties during the Great March of Return (GMR) demonstrations in Gaza, with one fatality and some 750 injuries during August. However, as highlighted in another article, Gaza’s overstrained health system is still struggling to cope with some 1,200 people who have been severely injured by live ammunition since the start of the GMR and require limb reconstruction treatment; so far, some 150 have undergone amputations, many of them due to bone infections resulting from inadequate treatment. The World Health Organization warns that unless the existing capacities for limb reconstruction are significantly scaled up, the number of ‘secondary amputations’ mostly due to bone infection, is likely to increase.

In the West Bank, there were a series of violent incidents during August which resulted in casualties, threatening destabilization. Four Palestinian attacks resulted in the killing of two Israelis (an off-duty soldier and a 17-year-old girl) and two of the perpetrators, including a 14-year-old boy. On 11 August, clashes erupted following the entry of a group of Israelis to the Haram ash Sharif/ Temple Mount compound, in the Old City of Jerusalem, when the Muslim feast of Al Adha and the Jewish Tisha B’av holiday coincided, resulting in 67 Palestinians injuries. 

The third article in this month’s Bulletin addresses the situation in Al ‘Isawiya in East Jerusalem. Since June, the Israeli Police has been conducting almost daily operations in the neighborhood, resulting in clashes that led to one fatality and least 137 injuries. According to media reports, less than two per cent of the 300 residents arrested during this period have been indicted, with the rest released shortly after their arrest. Human rights organizations have raised concerns that the police operations constitute collective punishment. The continuing tensions and violence have severely disrupted the daily life of over 18,000 Palestinians, with a worrying impact on children. UNICEF and partner organizations have been reaching vulnerable children in Al ‘Isawiya with a range of education and awareness raising activities. In early September, the Israeli Police and Al ‘Isawiya community leaders reached an understanding about the reduction of police operations and the start of the new school year in the neighbourhood.

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Emergency Response
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Increased electricity supply improves access to water and sanitation in Gaza (Part 1 of 2)

The increase in electricity supply in the Gaza Strip since October 2018 has improved the delivery of water and sanitation services, while reducing expenditure on fuel for back-up generators for households and businesses. This increase has also reduced the need for the emergency fuel provided by the UN to avert the collapse of key service providers. This improvement followed the supply of additional fuel to the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) which, together with the electricity purchased from Israel, has allowed for 10-15 hours of electricity a day (depending on the demand), compared to 5-7 hours prior to October 2018. The additional fuel has been purchased from Israeli vendors with funding provided by the Government of Qatar, which has committed to continuing this funding until the end of 2019.[1] The additional supply has improved the operation of water facilities (wells and booster stations), increasing the frequency of the water supply to households to about seven hours every one to three days.[2] The average amount of piped water supplied during the first half of 2019 was almost 78 litres per capita per day, compared to 72 in the same period in 2018.[3] However, piped water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption and is used primarily for domestic purposes other than drinking and cooking. For the latter purposes, 90 per cent of Gaza households purchase water from desalination/purification plants, commonly delivered by water tankers. The improvement in the electricity supply has increased the volume of water produced by these plants to a monthly average of nearly 2,500 cubic metres in the first six month of the year, up from less than 2,200 cubic metres in the equivalent period of 2018. However, desalinated water is still 10-30 times more expensive than piped water, placing a heavy financial burden on already impoverished families (see case study below). The improved power provision has also enhanced the operation of the five wastewater treatment plants in Gaza. On average, nearly 120 million litres of sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean every day. Following longer treatment cycles, the pollution levels of the wastewater discharged during the first six months of 2019 declined by 23 and 33 per cent respectively compared to the average levels of pollution in 2018 and 2017.[4] This has enabled the rehabilitation of a few additional beaches for swimming, one of the few recreational activities available to the population. According to the Environment Quality Authority in Gaza, by June 2019 around 64 per cent of Gaza’s beaches were contaminated compared to 74 per cent recorded in April 2018 (see Map). Additionally, a seawater desalination plant, a carrier line and a water tanker, funded by the Kuwaiti Development Fund through the Islamic Development Bank, is under operational trial and testing. Once commissioned, the project will provide desalinated, drinkable water to some 200,000 people in western Gaza city, which is one of the worst affected areas in terms of water quality. Despite the recent improvement, the existing water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza is unable to meet the needs of its two million people and is vulnerable to political contingencies. This is the result of longstanding factors, including recurrent cycles of hostilities; restrictions on the entry of materials in the context of the Israeli blockade; impediments stemming from the internal Palestinian divide; and a shortage of electricity. The most serious consequence is the depletion of Gaza’s only coastal aquifer due to over-extraction, rendering the water distributed through the network unfit for human consumption.[5] In addition, despite the recent improvement, current sewage discharge levels into the sea remain more than double that recommended by international environmental health-standards.[6]

Desalination plant connected to solar energy

Access to safe water is one of the main needs for some 40,000 residents in Al Amal, a neighbourhood in Beit Lahiya city in northern Gaza. According to Oxfam, until recently, less than two per cent of residents could afford adequate amounts of desalinated drinking water, with poor families consuming unmonitored and unreliable water provided free at filling points operated by various charities. In response, Oxfam, in partnership with the Youth Empowerment Center, supported the upgrading of Al Amal desalination plant, to increase the production capacity of the plant and provide safe drinking water at an affordable price for 1,132 poor families.[7]

Given the electricity shortages and the dependence on expensive fuel to operate generators, the project included the installation of a solar energy system connected to the plant. This has enabled the plant to extend its operational time from three to about seven hours a day and to increase production from 14 to 34 cubic metres a day. The price of the desalinated water has also decreased by 20 per cent, from 1 to 0.8 shekels per cubic metre. Final evaluation revealed that the proportion of the population in Al Amal with access to safe drinking water has now reached 76 per cent.

Fatima Al Boraai is a mother and housewife who lives in Al Amal neighborhood. “We used to drink water directly from the tap, but this has changed after we noticed that the taste of the water changed,” Fatima says. She also noticed that members of her family, particularly children and the elderly, were more susceptible to  diarrheal diseases, which are related to poor water quality. The alternative was to collect water from filling points, but those are far from the family home and it was mostly the children’s role to collect the water. The children had to wait in long lines with other families to access the water. After the upgrade of Al Amal desalination plant, Fatima has been able to buy safe drinking water from the private vendor who collects water from the plant and in turn sells it to the community at an affordable price, according to the established tariff system.

[1] HH the Amir Directs Allocation of 480 Million USD in Support of Palestinian People,7 May 2019

[2] 25 per cent of people in Gaza receive water at home for seven hours every day; 65 per cent receive it for seven hours every two days; and 10 per cent receive it for seven hours every three days.

[3] The recommendation by the World Health Organization is 100 litres per capita per day.

[4] On average, the level of Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD: an indicator of water pollution levels), has dropped to 142 mg/l compared to an average of 265 mg/l in 2018 and 232 mg/l in 2017. See OCHA. Gaza Strip: early warning indicators - June 2019

[5] Current extraction is almost three times higher than natural replenishment by rainfall This practice results in the extraction of brackish water from the deeper layers of the aquifer, alongside the increasing intrusion of seawater. The sea also flushes back to the shores of Gaza large amounts of untreated or insufficiently treated sewage that is discarded into the sea. Open sewage runoff and agrichemicals also seep into the aquifer.

[6] International standard BOD is 60 mg/l according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

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Emergency Response
Solar panels at Al Amal desalination plant in Gaza, 31 July 2019. © Photo by Oxfam
Solar panels at Al Amal desalination plant in Gaza, 31 July 2019. © Photo by Oxfam

Increased electricity supply improves access to water and sanitation in Gaza: Desalination plant connected to solar energy (Part 2 of 2)

Access to safe water is one of the main needs for some 40,000 residents in Al Amal, a neighbourhood in Beit Lahiya city in northern Gaza. According to Oxfam, until recently, less than two per cent of residents could afford adequate amounts of desalinated drinking water, with poor families consuming unmonitored and unreliable water provided free at filling points operated by various charities.

In response, Oxfam, in partnership with the Youth Empowerment Center, supported the upgrading of Al Amal desalination plant, to increase the production capacity of the plant and provide safe drinking water at an affordable price for 1,132 poor families.[7]

Given the electricity shortages and the dependence on expensive fuel to operate generators, the project included the installation of a solar energy system connected to the plant. This has enabled the plant to extend its operational time from three to about seven hours a day and to increase production from 14 to 34 cubic metres a day. The price of the desalinated water has also decreased by 20 per cent, from 1 to 0.8 shekels per cubic metre. Final evaluation revealed that the proportion of the population in Al Amal with access to safe drinking water has now reached 76 per cent.

Fatima Al Boraai is a mother and housewife who lives in Al Amal neighborhood. “We used to drink water directly from the tap, but this has changed after we noticed that the taste of the water changed,” Fatima says. She also noticed that members of her family, particularly children and the elderly, were more susceptible to  diarrheal diseases, which are related to poor water quality. The alternative was to collect water from filling points, but those are far from the family home and it was mostly the children’s role to collect the water. The children had to wait in long lines with other families to access the water. After the upgrade of Al Amal desalination plant, Fatima has been able to buy safe drinking water from the private vendor who collects water from the plant and in turn sells it to the community at an affordable price, according to the established tariff system.

[7] The solar panel installation was funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

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© Photo by OCHA

At least 1,200 people injured in Gaza demonstrations will require limb reconstruction

In Gaza, severe limb injuries caused by live ammunition have created a substantial burden on the already overstrained health system. Between 30 March 2018 and 31 July 2019, more than 7,500 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition by Israeli forces during the “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations along the fence between Gaza and Israel.[1] According to the oPt Health Cluster, 87 per cent of these are limb injuries, with injuries to the abdomen and pelvis accounting for approximately five per cent.

Of the over 6,500 limb injuries, 148 have directly resulted in amputations (122 lower limb and 26 upper limb). Out of these, at least 108 cases were the result of secondary amputations, which were performed due to subsequent bone infections. The latter usually occur when a limb injury is compounded by more extensive damage to the skin, tissue, nerves and blood vessels. It is estimated that that between 25 and 40 per cent of patients with such complications go on to develop some form of bone infection over a 12-month period following the injury. In other cases, the injury leads to an open fracture that is either non-healing or leaves bone gaps, which also require specialized orthopaedic plastic-reconstructive surgery.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 1,200 of those who sustained limb injuries will require specialized limb reconstruction treatment. Such treatment usually extends from six months to three years, depending on the severity of the case, and involves two to eight surgeries and 12 to 30 physiotherapy sessions. The cost of each individual treatment may reach as much as US$ 40,000.

WHO has warned that unless the existing capacities for microbiology testing, osteomyelitis treatment and limb reconstruction are significantly scaled up, the number of secondary amputations is likely to increase. The Health Cluster has appealed for $28.2 million to support the emergency healthcare needs of Gaza during 2019, of which $ 16.2 have been provided, leaving a funding gap of $12 million.

The large number of live ammunition injuries among unarmed demonstrators has also raised concern about excessive use of force by the Israeli military. Under international human rights law, the use of lethal force in law enforcement activities is allowed only as a last resort and only in response to imminent threat to life, or serious injury.

Addressing the need for limb reconstruction

Years of blockade and other movement restrictions on people and materials, including medical resources, the deepening intra-Palestinian political divide, and a chronic energy crisis, have led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services in the Gaza Strip. According to WHO, in July, 254 items (or 49 per cent) of essential medications and 225 items (or 26 per cent) of medical disposables were reported to be at less than one-month supply at Gaza’s Central Drugs Store.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) UK is currently the only organization dealing with late and complex limb reconstruction injuries in Gaza, in coordination with MoH and the Health Cluster. MAP established the first limb reconstruction unit in the oPt, comprising two consultant orthopaedic surgeons, two nurses and two physiotherapists, in addition to doctors and other specialists working with the local teams. The unit supports existing services in Gaza hospitals by bringing in medical missions to conduct on the job training; assistance with complex cases; the provision of equipment; regular Skype links between Gaza and London; and coordination efforts with stakeholders.

In March 2019, the oPt Humanitarian Coordinator allocated US$ 2,3 million from the Humanitarian Fund administered by OCHA, to MAP-UK to improve limb reconstruction services in Gaza. As of August 2019, MAP has brought two medical missions into Gaza to assist local teams in treating complex limb reconstruction cases. The missions provided much needed surgical items, two limb reconstruction project assistants to record patient data, assist patients with filling out forms and coordinate with the local teams.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is another international NGO dealing with people who have developed bone infections after sustaining a limb injury from live ammunition. The organization has been recently working with the MoH in Gaza to upgrade a laboratory, so that it can analyse bone samples, a crucial part of diagnosing correctly bone infections and knowing which antibiotics will work. Previously, each sample had to be sent to labs in Israel for testing.[2]

The Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza, with support from WHO, is developing a limb reconstruction database, which will allow for real-time tracking and appropriate referral for limb reconstruction patients. The database will allow the MoH and its partners to upload and access patient data, as well as identifying and referring patients in need of limb reconstruction screening, pre and post-surgery consultations, including physiotherapy plans.  

The system mechanism will facilitate the tracking of patients and ensure prioritization of the most severe cases, while storing clinical information throughout the treatment pathways. The database will enable the assessment of outcomes and impacts of limb reconstruction interventions, such as the one implemented by MAP UK. Thus far, some 900 potential candidates for complex limb reconstruction procedures have been screened.

Personal story: “I really appreciate that I was chosen to be evaluated by MAP”

Mohammed Abu Jazar is a 41-year-old father of six children was injured on 14 May, 2018, the most devastating GMR demonstration to date, with 59 killed and over 2,600 injured.

“It was the third time for me to take part in a demonstration. Before that I only sat in the tents, but this time I was looking out for my children who had arrived there before me. Within five minutes of arriving, when I was at some 150 meters away from the fence, I was shot in my right leg.

I had severe pain following my injury. The bullet caused an injury that affected the veins, arteries and bone. While waiting to be treated, the main artery in my leg exploded and I was admitted to the operations room the European hospital in Khan Younis.

I underwent a number of surgeries, including two for the external fixator, which made my injury worse. Later I got a more sophisticated fixator used for complex fractures. [3] I was very lucky to receive this, although during all this time, I couldn’t walk. I was totally dependent on a wheel chair.”

Mohammed doesn’t work and receives only 1,300 NIS from the Ministry of Social Development every three months. “We used to buy all the medications out of our own pocket, and I had to borrow money from others or go into debt. Seven months following my injury, the high committee of the GMR started paying 600 NIS every 30-40 days and do medical checks to evaluate the injury.

“Recently the doctors said that I’m doing well and that the TSF device could be removed. Since then, I have had teams of physiotherapists visiting me every month and I have been attending the Limb Reconstruction outpatient clinic run by MAP. I really appreciate that I was chosen to be evaluated by the mission and really want to continue receiving care from them.”

Mohammed is now able to stand and walk with his children without the assistance of a wheel chair or crutches, and is currently looking for a job that is suitable for his condition.

[1] This figure includes only those people that have been hospitalized following their injury; some 600 additional demonstrators injured by live ammunition have been only treated at the medical points deployed in the field. Additionally, 206 demonstrators, including 44 children, were killed in this context and more than 26,000 others injured by means other than live ammunition. For further details and breakdowns see OCHA’s Casualties Online Database and OCHA’s Snapshot.

[2] For further details about this intervention see: MSF, Treating resistant infections in Gaza under the blockade, September 2019.

[3] The Taylor Spatial Frame is an external fixator used for complex fractures in both adults and children. MAP is the only organization that helps to procure this device in Gaza.

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Daily police raids and clashes result in casualties and disruption of daily life in East Jerusalem neighbourhood (Part 1 of 3)

Overview

Between June and August 2019, there was a sharp increase in violent clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the Al ‘Isawiya neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. As of 21 August, these clashes have resulted in the killing of one Palestinian and the injury of at least 137, a significant increase compared to previous periods.[1] Four Israeli policemen were also injured. During this period, OCHA recorded the arrest of 218 residents, including 53 children, while media reports estimated this figure at over 300.[2] The daily life of the over 18,000 Palestinians living in Al ‘Isawiya[3] has been severely disrupted, with a particularly negative impact on children and on commercial activities. 

Most of the clashes were triggered by the almost daily police operations that took place , which have been referred to by police sources as a “regular law enforcement activity”.[4] However, journalists and residents reported being informed by police officers that the aim of the operations is to stop stone throwing by residents at Israeli vehicles travelling on the main road along the northern entrance to the neighbourhood. During the first half of 2019, OCHA recorded three stone-throwing incidents in that area which resulted in the injury of one Israeli woman and light damage to two buses.

Human rights organizations have raised concern that given the purpose, intensity and modality of these operations, they may amount to collective punishment.[5]

The police operations have included different routines. One has been the erection of ad-hoc (‘flying’) checkpoints at the entrances to the neighbourhood, where most vehicles are stopped and searched, resulting in long queues and delays. Residents report that a considerable proportion of car searches end in the issuance of penalties, commonly for minor infractions. Many of the incursions into Al ‘Isawiya were to escort municipal inspectors, who distributed demolition and stop-work orders (see section on inadequate planning below) and surveyed homes for taxation purposes.

Many homes have also been raided during this period, mostly in the middle of the night. Residents have been questioned, and in some cases detained for further interrogation, with the vast majority released within hours. According to one media report, only five Palestinians have been indicted and no weapons were found in any of the searches.[6]  

Most of the clashes have involved stone-throwing by Palestinians, and the firing of rubber/sponge bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters by Israeli forces, resulting in the large numbers of injuries. Nearly 70 per cent of those injured during June-August 2018 were caused by rubber/sponge bullets (see chart).

During one of the clashes on 27 June, a 21-year-old Palestinian man was shot in the chest at close range with live ammunition, reportedly after he discharged firecrackers at the policemen; he died shortly after his admission to an Israeli hospital. According to the information gathered by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the shooting occurred in circumstances which did not pose a threat of death or serious injury to Israeli forces, raising concerns about excessive use of force in violation of the right to life. The Israeli authorities have announced a criminal investigation into the case. Subsequently, Israeli forces repeatedly raided the neighbourhood, reportedly to remove Palestinian flags and posters commemorating the man killed, triggering additional clashes. According to the community, during one of the confrontations, a police facility was reportedly set on fire by Palestinians.

In two incidents monitored by OHCHR, Israeli forces chased and apprehended children as young as five years old.[7] In one of these incidents, on 27 July, the forces chased a six-year-old boy, whom they accused of throwing stones into his house. The police officers pulled the boy, who reportedly suffers from asthma and a heart condition, from his mother’s arms, but subsequently released him. They instructed the mother to confine the child to the house and issued a summon to his father to appear the following day at a police station for interrogation.

[1] The number of Palestinian injures is underestimated, as many injured individuals reached medical treatment centers on their own and could not be verified, so are not included in this count. In the data presented here, “injured” refers to people who were physically hurt in a relevant incident and received medical treatment at a clinic or hospital, or by paramedic personnel on the site of the incident. This includes people who received treatment due to suffocation by tear gas. People treated due to psychological shock are not included. Unless otherwise specified, the source for all figures related to casualties and arrests is OCHA’s Protection of Civilians database.

[2] Nir Hasson, 340 arrests and only five indictments, Ha’aretz, 28 August 2019.

[3] Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook, Population of Jerusalem by Population Group, Quarter and Sub-Quarter, 2016.

[4] Nir Hasson, Israel's collective punishing exacts price from this East Jerusalem neighborhood, Ha’aretz, 1 July 2019.

[5] See for example B’Tselem, Israeli Police fatally shoots Muhammad ‘Abeid, 23 July 2019.

[6] Nir Hasson, Haaretz, 28 August 2019. Earlier in August it was reported that during one of the search operations, the Police planted a gun in a Palestinian home in the neighborhood for the purpose of “discovering it” for a TV docudrama.

[7] The minimum age for criminal responsibility under Israeli law is 12.

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Daily police raids and clashes result in casualties and disruption of daily life in East Jerusalem neighbourhood (part 2 of 3)

Background: Land expropriations and inadequate planning

Al ‘Isawiya is located a few kilometres northeast of Jerusalem’s Old City. As part of the 1949 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Jordan, the built-up area was included within an Israeli demilitarized enclave within the territory left under Jordanian control; in practice the village was largely administered by the UN until 1967.

Following the 1967 war, the village’s built-up area and part of its agricultural land were incorporated by Israel into to the expanded municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. The following year, part of the non-residential areas was expropriated for the establishment of the French Hill settlement and the expansion of Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University. Other areas within the historical boundaries of Al ‘Isawiya were planned in the 2010s for a National Park, in which construction is prohibited, although the plan is yet to be approved. Most of the village’s land outside of East Jerusalem, which reaches the outskirts of Jericho and was later designated as Area C, were also expropriated for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, as part of the ‘E1 plan’. 

So far, the Jerusalem Municipality has approved only one outline plan for the community (# 2316), whose building potential was quickly exhausted.  As a result, as is the case in many other areas of the West Bank, residents felt they were left with little choice but to build without permits in areas not zoned as residential or unplanned. Since 1 January 2009, the Israeli authorities have demolished over 130 structures in Al ‘Isawiya, displacing 57 people and impacting the livelihoods of more than 600 others. Many more structures have pending demolition orders, over 20 of which were issued in August 2019. The Jerusalem Outline Plan (#2000), which is not endorsed but serves as guidance for municipal planning and enforcement, envisions the legalization of existing homes and the addition of floors to existing housing units. However, it proposed only a marginal expansion of the current built up area for new construction.[8]

[8] For further detail on the planning situation of Al ‘Isawiya see Bimkom, East Jerusalem Planning Survey, 2013. 

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Alaa and Rasha Obeid with their three children, Al ‘Isawiya, East Jerusalem, May 2019. Photo contributed by the family
Alaa and Rasha Obeid with their three children, Al ‘Isawiya, East Jerusalem, May 2019. Photo contributed by the family

Daily police raids and clashes result in casualties and disruption of daily life in East Jerusalem neighbourhood (Part 3 of 3)

Childhood in Al ‘Isawiya

The intensity of the clashes and the number of injuries in Al ‘Isawiya are the highest recorded since the last quarter of 2015, when an escalation that started in the Old City of Jerusalem spread to other parts of East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. However, frequent police raids and arrest operations have been ongoing in Al ‘Isawiya since then. The longstanding tensions and violence have severely undermined children’s security and psychosocial well-being. For children in their formative years and adolescents transitioning to adulthood, the long-term impacts are likely to be negative on several levels.

Children growing up in Al ‘Isawiya face multiple problems and risks, including pressures experienced at home, school and in the community, and frequent encounters with Israeli security forces, which can result in arrest. Since the beginning of 2019, at least 92 children from Al ‘Isawiya have been detained, representing 41 per cent of all child detentions recorded in East Jerusalem. Of concern are the long-term effects of structural violence, which often leads to frustration and risky behaviour. 

In light of the ongoing raids and violence, Al ‘Isawiya Parents Committee decided to postpone the start of the new school year, which elsewhere in East Jerusalem occurred on 24 August, for an indefinite period, pending an improvement in the security situation. In early September, following an understanding reached between the Israeli Police and Al ‘Isawiya community leaders about a reduction in police operations, the Parents Committee called off the strike, allowing children to return to school.

UNICEF, along with other members of the Child Protection Working Group, regularly provide children at-risk in Al ‘Isawiya with various services, including remedial education, rehabilitation, sports activities, and awareness-raising on legal rights, among other activities. Vocational training focused on self-perception and insertion in the labour market has been also provided. In the first three weeks of August 2019 a total of 113 children in the neighbourhood were reached. 

Personal story: “Life has become very stressful here, especially for children.”

The Obeid family, consisting of husband Alaa, wife Rasha, and their three children, live on the ground floor of a four-storey building in Al ‘Isawiya, next to the community’s high school. In the late afternoon of 21 July, Israeli forces entered the school to remove Palestinian flags.

“My eight-year-old daughter was playing with other children at the entrance of our home, when a sound bomb landed nearby and a fragment injured her eye”, Alaa explained.  

“After one of my brothers took my daughter to the hospital, another brother went down to speak with the soldiers. I followed him. The soldier asked for our ID’s, which we showed to him. Some hours later, the soldiers came back and tried to arrest my brother Rami, on the grounds that he disrupted a police operation, triggering an altercation. When I intervened and tried to separate him from the soldiers, they beat me and sprayed pepper in my eyes. While I was lying on the ground they gave me three shocks with a taser and then handcuffed me. My brother was physically assaulted too and taken to a police car.

Since the policy of Israeli ambulances is to not enter Al ‘Isawiya without a police escort, it took the paramedics 30 minutes to reach scene. “Then I was put on the paramedic’s bed and escorted by the police to the ambulance waiting outside, and then taken to the hospital.” 

Rasha continues: “My children witnessed their father and uncle being beaten and this took a toll on them. That night was horrible! My 12-year-old boy had nightmares and we were all worried about my husband being arrested. Alaa and his brother spent two nights away. We had to pay 1,000 shekels bail each to release them and have them under home arrest for five days. All because we questioned the throwing of a sound bomb at our children! Life has become very stressful here, especially for children.”

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Analysis

Gaza Strip - Key Trends and Indicators (Part 1 of 4)

Overview

  • Exits via the Erez crossing (16,332) recorded a five-year high, following an easing of preconditions for the issuance of exit permits to traders; many of these permits have been reportedly used by laborers.

  • The ceasefire understanding reached in May has held: in June, for the first time since March 2018, there have been no fatalities during demonstrations or hostilities, along with a sharp decline in injuries.

  • The fishing zone along the southern half of Gaza’s coast was extended to 15 nautical miles and XX fishing boats that had been confiscated were returned.

  • Qatar pledged $180 million to support the purchase of fuel to run the Gaza Power Plant until the end of 2019; yet, average electricity supply in June was 12 hours, down from 15 hours in May.

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Gaza Strip - Key Trends and Indicators (Part 2 of 4)

Protection of civilians

  • The GMR demonstrations at the fence resulted in 796 Palestinian injuries, including XX children, but no fatalities; no casualties recorded outside the demonstrations.

  • 31 shooting incidents at the Access Restricted Area (ARA) on land and at sea.

  • Comprehensive data on conflict-related casualties is available at OCHA’s interactive database

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Situation Report
Analysis
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Gaza Strip - Key Trends and Indicators (Part 3 of 4)

Gaza Crossings

  • Exits by “traders” (10,969) and by patients (3,196) via Erez increased by 44 and 10 per cent respectively, compared with the previous five months.

  • Rafah crossing remained operational five days a week but the volume of crossing declined by XX per cent, compared to the average for Jan-May 2019.

  • Exports (263 trucks) and imports (7,200 trucks) declined in June compared to previous months, but remained above the monthly average in previous years.

  • Exceptionally, the Kerem Shalom crossing operated on Friday for the entry of Qatari-funded fuel for the GPP, overall 10.6 million litres of such fuel entered in June.

  • Comprehensive data on Gaza crossings is available at OCHA’s interactive database.

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occupied Palestinian territory

Situation Report
Visual

Gaza Strip - Key Trends and Indicators (Part 4 of 4)

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Services and livelihoods

  • While power supply from Israel remained stable, the production levels at the GPP slightly declined during June. An interactive database on electricity supply in Gaza is available at

  • Sewage treatment improves for the seventh consecutive month, as reflected in reduced levels of pollution.

  • Slight decline in the volume of piped water supplied to households, alongside an increase in the production of desalinated water.

  • Half of essential drugs are out of stock, the worst such figure in two years.

  • Only 3 per cent of people still displace from the 2014 conflict received their rental cash assistance in the second quarter of the year.

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