Serious protection concerns and human rights violations continued throughout 2012. As a result, humanitarian vulnerability persists. Almost all humanitarian concerns were related to the continuing protection crisis, e.g. movement restrictions, demolitions, displacement, inadequate law enforcement and lack of accountability to address Israeli-settler violence towards Palestinians and their property. In Gaza, 101 Palestinian civilians, including 36 women and 14 children, were killed in November’s “Operation Pillar of Defense”, out of a total of 168 Palestinians killed as a result of Israeli military action during the escalation in hostilities. Six civilians, including one woman and three children, may have been killed by Palestinian rockets falling short of their target. The Gaza Ministry of Health reported that 1,399 Palestinians were injured, the majority believed to be civilians. Three Israeli civilians, two soldiers and a civilian-military contractor were also killed in Gaza-launched rocket and mortar attacks. A total of 232 Israelis were also injured, the majority civilians. Despite the ceasefire, there have been Palestinian casualties in the Access Restricted Areas (ARAs). Regarding access, although the number of obstacles in the West Bank increased from 529 to 542, there were significant easing measures. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli authorities continued to impose an intensified blockade which raises concerns of collective punishment. Following the ceasefire between the parties in November, Israel agreed to relax some of the restrictions in the ARAs in Gaza.
Throughout 2012, OCHA supported coordination mechanisms in oPt under the guidance of the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT). A major achievement was the increased coordination between humanitarian and development frameworks, which will be seen in the first UNDAF for oPt for 2014 to 2016. OCHA actively advocated the inclusion of humanitarian concerns into the longer-term development planning processes.
OCHA steered the inter-cluster coordination group towards a more operational focus by elevating the inter-cluster emergency response to demolitions from the Displacement Working Group to the inter-cluster level. OCHA also increased its support for the Protection Cluster, helping to mainstream protection in other key clusters such as Education, Health and WASH, and ensuring that protection concerns underpin HCT and cluster work in terms of advocacy and the CAP.
The 2012 CAP, which requested $419 million by year-end, received 71 per cent funding. Due to a more rigorous vetting process of CAP projects and a more robust application of humanitarian criteria, this represented a reduction in requirements on the 2011 CAP. This trend continued for the 2013 CAP, which is requesting just over $401 million.
In 2012, the OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund (ERF) received 58 project proposals totalling $12.5 million. Of these proposals, 25 projects were approved for $5.5 million compared with $2.3 million for 14 projects in 2011.
Following cessation of hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel in November 2012, OCHA and humanitarian partners launched the first inter-agency UN and NGO initial rapid needs assessment in conjunction with local community leaders to determine the scope of the immediate humanitarian impact on the ground. For three days, OCHA-led assessment teams visited the 21 most affected municipalities in Gaza. They conducted key informant interviews, which were also complemented by a focus-group approach. The assessment identified urgent needs in WASH, health and protection (shelter, psychosocial support, rubble removal, ERW/UXO removal and awareness, and legal remedies). The assessment findings helped mobilize $8.2 million under the CERF rapid response window.
Under the Transformative Agenda, OCHA committed to increasing outreach to and the participation of NGOs. In 2012, OCHA has better involved NGOs as strategic partners in its work and the joint work of the humanitarian community. The ERF has also sought to increase the participation of National NGOs (NNGOs) and has encouraged partnerships between NNGOs and International NGOs. In 2012, 17 of the 25 ERF-funded projects were either implemented by an NNGO or in partnership with an NNGO.
In 2012, OCHA continued mainstreaming advocacy across its activities. In 2011, it led the development of the first HCT advocacy strategy, which was updated in 2012. The common strategy improved coherence in the messaging of humanitarian agencies and partners on humanitarian concerns. This was enhanced in 2012 with the publication of the first OCHA oPt annual report, titled Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2011, which was based around the five themes of the HCT advocacy strategy.
In 2012, the HCT Advocacy Group developed a pan-agency joint initiative to mark five years since the intensification of the blockade on Gaza. The initiative included a social media campaign, private briefings, a web portal, fact sheets, a joint press statement and a press conference, with various agencies leading different aspects. The HCT Advocacy Working Group was linked to the clusters’ work by streamlining its membership along cluster lines. This has increased accountability and enhanced the link between the group’s work, cluster priorities and the CAP. OCHA advocacy also fed into high-level diplomatic efforts, including policy discussions and Member States’ positions on the impact of occupation-related restrictions and impediments that affect Palestinian communities. OCHA oPt also continued to provide inputs for monthly Security Council briefings on the Middle East.
The demand for OCHA briefings and field tours was high. OCHA held 232 briefings and field tours for 2,666 participants in 2012, which included members of the diplomatic and donor community, Israeli and Palestinian civil society, local and international media, politicians, military, academics and humanitarian actors. The majority of briefing participants were non-humanitarian actors.
OCHA worked to improve the efficiency of humanitarian access in 2012, focusing on high-profile and political interventions in access through advocacy and meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian authorities. This complemented the work of the Access Coordination Unit (ACU), which continued to monitor, support and analyse humanitarian access in the West Bank and Gaza on behalf of the HC and HCT. The ACU developed a number of mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on humanitarian access including online databases to record and analyse information on access incidents faced by humanitarian staff, permit and visa applications, and coordination requests for the entry of restricted materials to Gaza.
The implementation of humanitarian assistance projects was hampered by the permit regime applied by the Israeli authorities in Area C and in East Jerusalem. However, humanitarians contend that under international law, permits are not needed to deliver humanitarian assistance. Agencies providing assistance to Palestinians who have suffered demolition of “illegal” structures in Area C have come under increasing pressure by the Israeli authorities. This has resulted in the confiscation of assistance and vehicles, harassment and arrest of personnel, and demolition of donor-funded structures.
 As of March 2013 Israel re-imposed heightened restrictions on Gaza, with a reinstatement of the fishing limit to 3 nautical miles from the coast. Additionally, there have been significant closures of the Erez and Karem Shalom crossings. According to the Government of Israel, these heightened restrictions are in response to rockets fired towards southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups on 21 March and in the broader context of Hamas’s failure to respect the November ceasefire agreement, brokered by Egypt.