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The Humanitarian Monitor Occupied Palestinian Territory No. 30, Oct 2008

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October Overview

While the truce between Israel and the Hamas authorities in Gaza was still observed in October, daily life of the population continued to be a struggle. There has been no improvement in the access of people through Gaza's borders, which remained limited to patients, pilgrims and senior businessmen. Moreover, partially due to the closure of the crossings during the Jewish holidays, this month, there was a 30% decline in the number of truckloads entering Gaza compared to September, while exports remained entirely barred. Since the beginning of the truce, there has been an expansion in the types of goods allowed entry, while the limited quantities, combined with the lack of other essential items, precluded any significant impact on the economy and on services. As a result of the harsh restrictions on commercial movement through the official crossings, tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border continued to proliferate and allow the entry of otherwise unavailable goods, including fuels. While this phenomenon brings some respite to the population, it has resulted in numerous Palestinian casualties from tunnel collapses or related accidents; in October, eight Palestinians died in such circumstances. Furthermore, the commercial movement through the tunnels is unlikely to result in any significant reactivation of the economy.

The provision of services to the population in Gaza in October continued to be affected by the Ramallah-Gaza rift. The political divide compounded by the blockade and the suspension of developmental projects has had a destructive impact on the health systems in Gaza. Addressing the negative impact of these factors will require sustained early recovery/ development work with the Ministry of Health (MoH). Preliminary information indicates that since the beginning of the strike in the health sector, there was a significant drop, inter alia, in the overall number of patients admitted to hospitals, to outpatient's clinics, and those who underwent elective surgery. Due to the strike conducted by the Referral Abroad Department staff of the MoH, the number of applications to enter Israel and the West Bank for urgent medical treatment declined by almost 50%, compared to August, before the beginning of the strike. Moreover, while the Ministry of Health in Ramallah decided to resume coordination for the entry of drugs into Gaza, no shipment of pharmaceutical has been yet delivered, resulting in a significant increase in the number of essential drug items at zero level. Finally, Gaza's water utility continued to be denied regular fuel supply. This phenomenon, which has severely undermined the functioning of wastewater facilities, raised concerns about possible flooding during the forthcoming rainy season.

Events in October underscored the vulnerability of Palestinians living or tending land in East Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel retains full control over the building and planning sphere. Following a six-month lull, the Israeli authorities resumed the demolition of inhabited houses lacking building permits in Area C. As a result, approximately 140 Palestinians, including 80 children, were displaced or otherwise affected. This development renews concerns over the fate of more than 3,000 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C that have pending demolition orders that can be executed at any time.

The lack of adequate physical protection to civilians continued to be an issue of concern during the month: following the beginning of the annual olive harvest on 10 October, Palestinians harvesting olives in groves near some Israeli settlements and outposts in Area C suffered from repeated acts of intimidation and physical violence from Israeli settlers, despite the deployment of the IDF at friction points. Meanwhile, Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2) experienced an intensified wave of settler violence when Israeli settlers launched multiple attacks following attempts by the Israeli authorities to dismantle a settlement outpost. In addition, several attacks by Israelis on Palestinians and their property in East Jerusalem were reported in October, most of them over the course of the Jewish holidays. The number of Palestinians injured by Israeli security forces in the context of military operations, including search and arrest campaigns decreased by 20% compared to the monthly average since the beginning of the year. In total, during October, four Palestinians were killed, including one child, and 109 were injured, including 16 children, in Israeli-Palestinian conflict-related violence.

There is also an increasing concern regarding the situation of Palestinian detainees arrested in areas where additional PA security forces have deployed recently in large numbers. In the Hebron governorate, where such deployment indeed occurred, allegations of due process violations and ill treatment of detainees suspected of links with Hamas emerged following the arrest of 95 people in October.

Access to East Jerusalem and Israel for West Bank Palestinians with special permits was restricted during the month due to a general closure imposed during successive Jewish holidays. In addition, throughout the month the Israeli authorities have been barring medical staff and patients holding valid permits from accessing East Jerusalem hospitals through the vehicular checkpoints located at two main routes into the city, forcing them to use pedestrian checkpoints, which are frequently crowded and much more time consuming. This restriction has had a negative impact on the provision of health care. Seriously ill patients have now to stand at long queues, cross by foot and seek transportation at the other side of the checkpoint. Delivery of medical services at hospitals is disrupted due to the delays of doctors and nurses.

Additional restrictions were imposed during the same period in Hebron city, including the closure of the main route connecting the city with the Tarqumiya commercial terminal. This route was opened last August, as part of a series of measures aimed at easing Palestinian movement, without removing the physical infrastructure.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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