OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 05 - 11 Nov 2008

Situation Report
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Military activities affecting civilians

This week saw a decline in the number of military search operations (81) in the West Bank by the IDF compared to the 2008 weekly average (104). There was also a decline in the number of IDF arrests of Palestinians (67) compared to the weekly average in 2008 (102). In the West Bank, 35 Palestinians, including four children, and six Israeli security forces were injured in several clashes.

Factional Palestinian detentions: During the reporting period PA security forces arrested 28 Palestinians with alleged Hamas affiliations in the Hebron governorate. The intensity of PA operations in the southern areas of the West Bank has increased in the aftermath of Hamas' announced refusal to participate in the Palestinian internal dialogue scheduled to be held in Cairo, Egypt.

Complete closure of the Gaza Strip crossings

Commercial goods and Humanitarian aid halted: On 05 November Israeli authorities closed all Gaza crossings, effectively stopping the import of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. On 10 November, UNRWA announced that food distribution operations in the Gaza Strip would cease on 13 November unless Israeli authorities allowed the entry of wheat, luncheon meat, powdered milk and cooking oil.

The Israeli closure of the Gaza crossings was in response to the firing of Qassam rockets at Israel by Palestinian militants following the IDF military operation in Gaza which began on 4 November, which killed one Palestinian militant and entailed land levelling and a destruction of a house in Gaza.

Fuel shortage leads to electric cuts in the Gaza Strip

Following the closure of Nahal Oz fuel pipelines on 5 November, the electric plant shut down on 9 November. For the next two days, approximately 650,000 Gazan residents were without power, and businesses were forced to close during the evening hours. Other basic services such as water supply and sewage treatment function were also disrupted.

On 11 November, the Israeli Authorities partially reopened Nahal Oz fuel pipelines for four hours to allow the entry of 427,000 litres of the industrial gas for the Gaza power plant. During the week, no other types of fuel were allowed in. (See also CMWU appeal section)

Demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem: 33 Palestinians displaced

During the reporting period, six structures in East Jerusalem (Shu'fat, Silwan, Beit Hanina neighbourhoods), which lacked building permits, were demolished by the Jerusalem Municipality, resulting in the displacement of 31 Palestinians, including 21 children. Clashes erupted preceding the demolitions in Silwan, during which 18 Palestinians and five Border policemen were injured. Eleven Palestinians, including one child, were reportedly detained by Israeli security forces.

Eviction of East Jerusalem family: On 9 November, Israeli security forces forcibly evicted an elderly Palestinian couple (Al Kurd family) from their home in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. A Jerusalem court had ruled for the eviction of the family after determining that a group of Israeli settlers possessed an Ottoman-era bill of sale that grants them ownership of the land on which the house was built. The house, along with 27 other houses in the area, was built in the early 1950s by the Jordanian government in cooperation with UNRWA to house Palestinian refugees from West Jerusalem. In the course of the eviction, at least four international activists were detained by Israeli security forces.

Demonstrations in the West Bank

East Jerusalem cemetery demolition protest: Approximately 1,500 Palestinians marched from Salah El Din Street in East Jerusalem to Mammilla area in West Jerusalem in a peaceful demonstration to protest the decision of the Israeli High Court to allow the demolition of the historical Ma'man Allah Muslim, cemetery, with approximately 4,000 tombs, to build the "Museum of Tolerance" in its place.

Anti-Barrier demonstrations: Weekly anti-barrier demonstrations continued in the villages of Bil'in and Al Ma'sara in the Ramallah and Bethlehem governorates during which three Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces and cases of tear-gas inhalation were reported.

West Bank access incidents

Closure of the Old City of Hebron: For the second week in a row, Israeli authorities declared the area in the Israeli controlled area of Hebron City (H2) a "Closed Military Area". These closures were imposed during the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee's drive to bring Palestinian, regional and international figures to visit the Old City of OCHA Weekly Report 15 - 21 October 2008 | 2 Hebron in an effort to lift the closure on the mosque. As such, between 6 and 9 November, Israeli Border Police staffing the Ibrahimi Mosque checkpoint prevented the Egyptian and Tunisian ambassadors to the PA, the Governor of Hebron, PA delegates, and groups of journalists and university students from reaching the Mosque. A soccer tournament in Al Ibrahimiya School was also prohibited. Three university students were arrested during a solidarity visit to the Old City.

Checkpoint into the Jordan Valley closed: On 10 November, Tayasir checkpoint, one of two that Palestinians are allowed to use to access the Jordan Valley, was closed by the IDF to all Palestinians, with the exception of employees of international organizations. The Israeli DCL stated that the checkpoint was closed after a Palestinian man was found to possess a pipe bomb, which was later detonated and the man arrested. (See box for other checkpoints experiencing long delays)

Barrier incidents in Ni'lin: On 7 and 9 November in Ni'lin, seven Palestinians and one foreign national were injured by Israeli forces trying to limit access to Palestinian agricultural land. Of those injured, three sustained serious bone fractures and contusions throughout their bodies, and were subsequently admitted to Sheikh Zayed hospital in Ramallah City.

Curfews: On 6 November, in response to an alleged Molotov cocktail thrown from the town unto Road 60, the IDF imposed a two-hour curfew on the town of Al Khader (Bethlehem). Students were escorted out of schools with special coordination with the IDF. During IDF search operations in the northern West Bank on 6 - 7 November, curfews were imposed in Deir Istiya village in the Salfit governorate (12 hours), and 'Azzun village in the Qalqiliya governorate (10 hours).

The Gaza-Ramallah rift: Services in Gaza critically affected

Gaza health sector: According to WHO, 20% of hospital staff, and 27% of primary health care (PHC) centre staff is currently adhering to the health strike. Delays in the delivery of services and work overload on staff have been reported in the health sector, and WHO reports have indicated that there has an 18% decline in in-patients admitted to hospitals, a 34% decrease in outpatient admissions, a 32% decrease in surgical operations in comparison with October 07. Despite the decision by the Ministry of Health in Ramallah to resume coordination for the entry of drugs into Gaza, no shipment of pharmaceutical has thus far been delivered; there is a significant decrease in the number essential drug items in stock.

Gaza education sector strikes: The teacher strikes continued throughout the week. Since 14 October the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) has refused allow teachers back to work. Original teacher attendance remained at 46%, while 54% of teachers and school principles are still on strike; pupil attendance stands at 98% and all schools were open and functioning. The quality of education in the PA schools continues to be of concern.

Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utility launches appeal for fuel: On 10 November, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) launched an appeal stating that it cannot continue maintenance of water and waste-water facilities for lack of fuel and spare parts as a consequence of Israeli closure of the Gaza crossings. The Israeli closure exacerbated an already existing CMWU shortage of back-fuel stemming from the ongoing dispute between the PA in Ramallah and authorities in Gaza.

The two water wells in Wadi Gaza serving approximately 4,000 people living in Joher El Deak area resumed operation after Save the Children UK donated 6100 litres of fuel to CMWU on 11 November. The fuel was distributed to the Rafah waste water treatment plants, Khan Younis temporary pumping lagoon and to Wadi Gaza water wells. According to UNICEF, 70% of Gaza population have access to safe water every other day, and 30% of the population every three days.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.