oPt: Protection of civilians weekly report 12 - 18 Nov 2008
Since 5 November, daily electricity blackouts, shortages of cooking gas and fresh foods and the absence of a daily supply of water, together, compound an already ongoing degradation in the daily life of the Gazan civilian population. Their access to basic social services and to humanitarian assistance should be ensured at all times regardless of political or military considerations.
Bread supply is in danger: As no wheat grain has entered Gaza for 16 days, the largest Palestinian mill (Al Falastiniah) declared on 19 November that it will stop production for lack of grain. In the last two days, additional bread bakeries have closed due to the lack of cooking gas - 28 out of 47 bread bakeries are now shut down. In Rafah, all the bread bakeries have closed for lack of cooking gas.
Military activities affecting civilians
During the reporting period, the cease-fire between Gaza and Israel became increasingly strained. Both the firing of rockets and mortars towards Israel by Palestinian militants and Israeli military activity continued. Two separate Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes on Hamas militants killed eight Palestinian militants and injured four others. IDF units entered the Gaza Strip on three separate occasions and exchanged gunfire with Palestinian militants, reportedly injuring one IDF soldier.
Concurrently, locally-manufactured rockets and mortars were fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards Israel. One rocket resulted in the injury of an 82-year-old Israeli woman and one Palestinian man was injured when a mortar fell within the Gaza Strip.
In the West Bank, search operations conducted by the IDF continued. A total of 92 search campaigns were conducted, an increase of 14% compared to the previous week. The majority (61) took place in northern West Bank rural communities.
Complete closure of Gaza crossings: Fuel and goods barred into the Gaza Strip
Since 5 November, the Gaza crossings with Israel remained closed, reducing the already limited supply of goods into the Gaza Strip. All goods, including basic food supplies, were barred entry between 05 and 17 November. A shortage of milk products, red meat, fruit and other types of food items was reported during the period. On 13 November, UNRWA exhausted its food stock supplies and suspended its food distribution programmes to nearly 750,000 people. Distribution resumed on 17 November, since the same day Kerem Shalom Crossing was opened to allow the entry of 21 humanitarian truckloads and nine commercial truckloads carrying food items. However stocks remained low and UNRWA needs an average of 15 truckloads a day of humanitarian supplies to sustain normal operations. The situation will remain critical unless more humanitarian aid is allowed to enter.
1.5 million Gazans without regular electricity due to lack of fuel: The closure of Nahal Oz fuel pipeline sharply reduced supplies of industrial fuel for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP). On 9 November, the GPP was forced to shut down for lack of fuel. On 12 November, Israel partially reopened the pipeline allowing approximately 223,800 litres of industrial gas for the plant to enter Gaza. However, this amount was insufficient to meet needs; the GPP was forced to shut down again and began reinstituting rolling electric blackouts throughout the Gaza Strip. Overall, between 5 and 18 November, the total amount of industrial fuel that entered Gaza constituted only 13% of the plant's needs during the reporting period. Residents of Gaza City and the middle area were most affected, experiencing power cuts up to 16 hours a day. According to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, even with a daily schedule for distributing electricity, 650,000 Gazans in different areas of the Gaza Strip are left without electricity at any one time.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that hospitals in Gaza remained operational in spite of power cuts, as they have relied on backup generators. However, there is a growing concern regarding the increased dependency on backup generators, which are designed for emergency short-term use and not to run basic medical services. Should any of the generators breakdown, this will affect basic hospital operations, including surgical procedures.
No Gaza household has daily running water: Electricity cuts compounded by the lack of backup fuel affected the ability of the Coastal Municipality Water Utility (CMWU) to supply water and to operate its 37 sewage pumping stations. The CMWU received 40,000 litres of emergency fuel from UNRWA, covering the most urgent needs until 21 November.
According to UNICEF, 80% of Gaza's water wells (115 wells) are only partially functioning due to intermittent electricity, shortages of backup fuel and the lack of spare parts. As a result, 20% of the Gaza population has access to water six hours every five days, 40% of the population have access to water every four days and 40% of the population has access to water every thee days.
Bread rationing in Gaza
The severe shortage of cooking gas has shut down more than 20 bread bakeries (out of 47) in Gaza City. During the week, long queues in front of the operating bakeries were reported. A bread rationing scheme of one bag (50 pieces) per person is being implemented in order to cope with daily needs.
Disrupted health services in Gaza
According to WHO, delays in the delivery of services and work overload of staff have been reported in the health sector due to the ongoing strike in the Gaza Strip. During the reporting period, around 25% of hospital staff and 27% of primary healthcare personnel adhered to the strike.
On 17 November, WHO facilitated the entry of one truckload containing six pallets of drugs into Gaza. Currently, 95 essential drugs out of 473 listed essential drugs and 174 medical supplies at zero level. According to UNICEF, two vaccine shipments have been stuck at Ben Gurion Airport since 29 October, waiting for IDF coordination to enter Gaza.
Tunnels in Gaza: Declining amounts of goods
The Egyptian security forces demolished 20 Rafah tunnels located under the Gaza-Egypt border on 18 November (No casualties were reported). In addition, as a result of the collapse of one tunnel on the same day, two Palestinians were trapped inside and were evacuated afterwards. According to local reports, there was a decline of 50% in the daily average of the amount of goods (equal to 10 truckloads) entered into Gaza through the tunnels this week, compared to previous weeks.
Continued demolitions and displacement; Influx of stop-work orders in Area C
During the week, the Israeli authorities demolished five structures, including three dwellings, displacing 15 Palestinians, including 8 children. Four structures, including one inhabited dwelling, were demolished due to lack of permit in Shuqba village in Area C of the Ramallah governorate on 12 November. An additional five demolition orders reportedly were distributed against other structures in the village on the same day. On 18 November, a house was demolished in 'Eisawiya village in East Jerusalem by the Jerusalem Municipality for lack of building permit.
Also, during the reporting period, the Israeli Civil Administration issued at least 27 stop-work orders against Palestinian-owned structures in villages in Area C throughout the West Bank. The majority (13) were issued in Hebron, nine in Bethlehem and five in Salfit. Nineteen of the orders targeted residential dwellings. These events follow the resumption of Israeli demolitions of inhabited, Area C structures in October.
Demonstrations in the oPt
Demonstrations in the West Bank: Demonstrations took place throughout the West Bank during the week. Anti- Barrier demonstrations took place in Jayyus village (Qalqiliya), Ni'lin and Bil'in villages (Ramallah), and Al Ma'sara village (Bethlehem), resulting in the injury of 10 Palestinians and one international peace activist. Multiple demonstrations were held commemorating the fourth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat and the 20th anniversary of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in Algiers.
In East Jerusalem, a demonstration was organised after the Friday prayer on 14 November to protest the eviction of the Al Kurd family on 9 November and other possible evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah area. In the northern West Bank, Palestinians and international peace activists marched towards the evacuated settlement of Homesh to protest ongoing attempts by Israeli settlers to re-settle there. The IDF prevented demonstrators from reaching the area, resulting in one Palestinian injury, in addition to numerous people affected by tear gas used to disperse the demonstrators. In the central West Bank, Palestinians and international peace activists demonstrated against the road block placed eight years ago between Deir Ibzi and Ras Karkar villages (Ramallah), which denies direct access of 30,000 Palestinians in 14 villages to Ramallah City. When demonstrators attempted to remove the road block, clashes with the IDF ensued. The IDF fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Israeli High Court of Justice ordered on 16 November settlers to leave the Al Rajabi House in Hebron voluntarily within three days. It also declared that the State of Israel will be named temporary custodian of the property until a separate ruling on the ownership is issued. If the settlers do not leave voluntarily, an eviction notice will be issued. The Court also ordered the petitioners, Tal Construction and Investment of Karnei Shomron and the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, to pay NIS 15,000 in court fees.
This week at a glance:
Palestinian - Israeli conflict related casualties
- Palestinians killed: 8 - all in Gaza
- Palestinians injured: 5 in Gaza - 15 in West Bank.
- Of whom 3 are children
- Of whom 1 is an IDF soldier
Palestinians arrested by the IDF: 75 (previous week 67)
IDF flying checkpoints: 58 (previous week 52)
WB Checkpoints with long delays and queues:
Nablus: Huwwara, Beit Iba, Tappuah
Jerusalem: Qalandiya, and Ar Ram
Jericho: Jericho DCO.
The Dead Sea checkpoint continues to bar all access to Palestinian-plated vehicles from Thursday afternoon through Saturday evening.