Humanitarian Bulletin occupied Palestinian territory - July 2016
● Suspected ERW in Gaza has killed and injured more than 100 since the end of the 2014 hostilities.
● Planned easing of access restrictions for Palestinians in Ramadan partially frozen after fatal Tel Aviv attack.
● New project will target vulnerable communities in Area C with water consumption of less than 30 litres per capita per day.
● East Jerusalem Palestinian localities behind the Barrier lack adequate infrastructure, facilities and services.
- Palestinian killed (direct conflict) 7
- Palestinian injured (direct conflict) 256
- Israelis killed (direct conflict) 1 Israelis injured (direct conflict) 9
- Structures demolished in the West Bank 56
- People displaced in the West Bank 80
The majority of Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank face difficulties in accessing water, with an estimated 180 residential areas not connected to any water network and depending on expensive tankered water to meet their needs. Localities served by the network are also vulnerable to water scarcity, particularly in the summer, a situation exacerbated by a decision in June by the Israeli water company Mekorot to reduce the amount of water pumped to over 150,000 Palestinians in the northern West Bank. This month’s Bulletin profiles a UNICEF-coordinated project to supply subsidized water to 20,000 people in 79 Area C communities, which have an average water consumption of less than 30 litres per capita per day (l/c/d), far below the international standard of 100 l/c/d. The limited access to water is one element of the coercive environment in Area C that increases the risk of forcible transfer.
This month marks the twelfth anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion which stated that the sections of the Barrier which run inside the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and should be dismantled. The Bulletin highlights the impact of the Barrier on Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem which are physically separated from the urban centre. Tens of thousands of Palestinians living in these areas face restricted access, a lack of basic services and public infrastructure, unplanned residential construction and lack of law enforcement.
Access to East Jerusalem is also a major concern for the wider Palestinian population, particularly during Ramadan. Since 2008, the Israeli authorities have relaxed permit requirements for Palestinians who hold West Bank ID cards to access the Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers during Ramadan. This year, a total of 300,000 Palestinians who met the aged-based criteria entered East Jerusalem during the four Fridays of Ramadan. However, other announced easings in access restrictions were cancelled, after a fatal attack in Tel Aviv on 8 June, just after Ramadan began, including for the majority of worshippers from the Gaza Strip.
July 2016 marks two years since the seven week escalation of hostilities in Gaza in 2014. One of the most deadly legacies of that escalation is the presence of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), which continue to pose a serious threat to the civilian population. This month’s Bulletin profiles the work of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), including efforts to clear large aerial bombs, which impede reconstruction and development efforts. To date, UNMAS has cleared sites in more than 40 cases, but 87 sites remain to be cleared.
In his briefing to the Security Council on 12 July, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of his recent “moving encounter” with a 15 year-old boy in an UNRWA school in Gaza, who concluded the meeting by saying “harsh restrictions drain away the ambitions of any young person. And this is how we see our future -- to be killed by the conflict, to be killed by the closure, or to be killed by despair.” The Secretary-General expressed the hope that “Surely, we can do better for all the children of Palestine and Israel. Surely, they deserve a horizon of hope.” The Bulletin concludes with a project which aims to offer exactly such hope to the young people of Gaza. UNRWA’s Summer Fun Weeks is currently providing sports and leisure activities in over 120 different locations in Gaza, as part of the Agency’s efforts to support refugee children’s psychosocial needs.
Gaza two years on: residents at risk from Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)
Full extent of ERW contamination is unknown
In Gaza, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and other explosive hazards resulting from the 2014 and previous hostilities continue to pose a serious threat to the life and physical integrity of the population. The extent of contamination by ERW in Gaza is unknown. Although a large number of ERW was cleared shortly after the 2014 conflict by both official and unofficial bodies, suspected ERW remain hidden throughout Gaza, either among the rubble of destroyed structures or buried below the surface. Since the end of hostilities in August 2014, 17 people have been killed and 100 more have been injured by ERW, including 46 children.
As part of a sustainable strategy to mitigate the risks posed by ERW, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) focuses on protection measures which include the continued removal of suspected ERW, and support for reconstruction and development efforts by providing a holistic framework of risk mitigation measures. These measures comprise four mutually-reinforcing components, beginning with site-specific ERW risk assessments to determine the hazards and the level of risk. Based on these assessments, ERW risk awareness training is then provided to construction workers. UNMAS monitors ongoing work activities to ensure compliance with recommended measures. The final component is responsive technical support from an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) expert whenever an item is suspected to be an ERW. These activities are complemented by providing ERW risk education to communities at risk in order to reduce the number of accidents.
Following the end of hostilities, UNMAS supported UNDP’s Rubble Removal project for the safe removal and processing of more than one million tonnes of rubble. By the end of July this year, 81 risk assessments had been provided in support of reconstruction efforts coordinated by UNDP; the areas surveyed totalled 405,000m2 of land, including 41 km of roadways. ERW risk awareness training has been provided to 211 workers and risk education sessions have reached almost 39,000 members of communities at risk, including boys and girls.
In parallel, UNMAS continues to provide UNRWA, other UN agencies and NGO partners with leadership and expert technical expertise on the management of explosive hazards, while developing contingency plans to strengthen emergency preparedness. The ERW risk mitigation measures deployed in Gaza constitute a responsible and sustainable response to identify and remove ERW, and ultimately protect the lives of civilians.
Case Study: ERW Removal
On a hot summer day in July 2016, a bomb expert from UNMAS lowered himself down an excavation shaft 12 metres underground in a busy neighbourhood in the Middle Gaza Area to defuse a 925 kg aerial bomb, part of the legacy of past conflicts in Gaza. Although the responsibility for ERW clearance lies with the Gaza police, the impact of large aerial bombs cannot be properly managed in Gaza due to a lack of the technical skills required to render such items safe. UNMAS was therefore requested by the Ministry of Interior to fill this gap and assist with the clearance of aerial bombs. In this case, the bomb was safely removed and destroyed. For the UNMAS technician, the safe completion of this task brought with it the satisfaction of knowing that the danger had been removed forever. For the landowner, the removal of the ERW allowed him to close a painful chapter and to start the process of rebuilding his property.
When a bomb expert defuses a large bomb buried deep underground in a civilian area in Gaza, it is on the understanding that this work is only one essential component of a collaborative and holistic approach to protect civilians from the risk posed by ERW. Among other activities, since the end of the 2014 hostilities, UNMAS has cleared more than 40 cases of suspected large aerial bombs posing a risk to communities and impeding reconstruction and development efforts. Of the 131 locations identified since 2014 where this type of aerial bomb is suspected, 87 sites remain to be cleared. Each case can takes weeks to conclude and requires a costly combination of workers and heavy machinery. The availability of funding is a therefore a limiting factor to the speedy clearance of ERW that remain buried.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.