In recent weeks, media attention towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to have died down, after an upsurge following March 2018’s “Great March of Return” by Palestinians on the border between Gaza and Israel. Direct escalations have decreased in recent months and casualties are still comparatively low after a spike during the 2014 Gaza War. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, the conflict seems to be simmering on, without an outright escalation but also no solution in sight. Despite some reprieve at the beginning of this year, the situation on the ground remains fragile.
In the West Bank, the main concern of Palestinians remains the expansion of Jewish settlements. According to the report by the United Nations Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov at the Security Council’s quarterly debate on the issue, during the last quarter 3,100 housing units were approved by the Israeli government in Area C settlements, with simultaneous moves to legalize outposts and apply Israeli law there, “raising concerns of annexation” among Palestinians. In the same vein, UNICEF reports that critical infrastructure in East Jerusalem, Hebron, and Area C of the West Bank are under threat of demolition, for which Palestinians are unable to claim compensation from the Israeli authorities. The ending of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), which was established in 1995 in line with the so-called Oslo II Accords, could raise further concerns from Palestinians.
In Gaza, meanwhile, the humanitarian situation came close to collapse in the beginning of the year, with the World Health Organization concerned about their ability to continue operations in Gaza’s hospitals due to electricity and fuel shortages. This comes in the midst of an escalation in the dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Early in January, the Palestinian Authority withdrew its personnel from the border crossing of Rafah between Gaza and Egypt, prompting Egypt to temporarily close it. Additionally, after already having reduced the pay for civil servants in Gaza since April 2017, the Palestinian Authority suspended them entirely in January 2019. This comes atop a spike in the unemployment rate of 54% during the second quarter of 2018, with women and youth especially hard hit.
Beginning in February, there has been a contemporary boost in the situation, with electricity provision rising from three to ten hours per day, and an increase in donor commitments creating 4,200 jobs in recent weeks – reducing the rate of reliance on humanitarian assistance by the United Nations by 40%. Yet the situation remains tense, as “we should have no illusions about the dangerous dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continue to unfold before our eyes”, according to the UN Special Coordinator. At the Gaza border, intermittent light fire by Israeli security forces targeting Palestinians continues, while incendiary devices, and sometimes rockets, continue to be launched into Israel.
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Image courtesy of Rene Schlaefer via Flickr