This report briefly describes the security situation in the Gaza Strip during the first 11 months of 2018. This report, which updates a previous version from 30 January 2017, does not address the humanitarian situation. The research for this report was completed on 5 December 2018.
Since the rise to power of Hamas and the imposition of a blockade by Israel, the security situation in the Gaza Strip has been characterised by low-intensity skirmishes between Hamas and the Israel Defence Forces, which from time to time escalate into episodes of major violence. Hamas uses rockets and mortar fire to put pressure on Israel to ease its blockade on the territory and its inhabitants. The Israel Defence Forces resort to military action and a tightening of the blockade to force Hamas to back down. Violence flares up during short but intense episodes when one of the parties has overstepped certain limits. In 2014, one such episode triggered operation “Protective Edge”, the most devastating military intervention in the Gaza Strip since 2007. From 7 July to 28 August 2014, its population was subjected to intensive air strikes and ground offensives. 1,489 Palestinian civilians and 4 Israeli civilians were killed during 51 days of war.
During the surveyed period, violence in the Gaza Strip mainly affected Palestinian demonstrators taking part in the Great March of Return. This peaceful and apolitical protest movement, which took place from 30 March to 15 May 2018, saw thousands of marchers congregated in tent camps along the Israeli security fence to demand the right to return for Palestinian refugees and to denounce the 10-year blockade. The IDF opened fire against the demonstrators, killing 130 Palestinians and injuring 4,000. Some Palestinian militants tried to breach the security fence with explosives and launched incendiary balloons towards Israel, causing the destruction by fire of 2,000 hectares of land along the border. Demonstrations have been held every Friday since 15 May 2018. From 30 March to 30 October 2018, the OCHA counted 171 Palestinian dead and 24,000 injured in this context.
According to OCHA, from 1 January to 19 October 2018, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused 252 Palestinian casualties (civilians and combatants) in the Gaza Strip. Most of them were killed by the IDF during demonstrations. According to B’Tselem, most dead and wounded did not pose any threat to Israeli troops positioned on the other side of the security fence. B’Tselem considers that the high number of casualties is the outcome of Israel's open-fire policy, which was strictly enforced against demonstrators in the area of the Gaza fence.
Twenty percent of all casualties (57 persons, including 10 minors) occurred in other contexts, such as Palestinian attacks, Israeli air strikes and attempts to cross into Israel. Most of them were killed while trying to cross the security fence, whether armed or unarmed. Out of 24,362 injured during the Great March of Return, 12,778 persons (10,504 adults and 2,274 children) had to be taken to hospital. According to the NGO Médecins sans frontières, thousands of wounded Palestinians suffered bullet wounds in the legs, often resulting in “complex and serious pathologies which do not heal easily”, and which can cause permanent disability, amputation or death if not treated adequately.
On 11 November 2018, following a botched operation by Israeli special forces in the Gaza Strip, Hamas fired a massive volley of rockets towards Israel. In retaliation, several buildings of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were targeted by heavy Israeli air strikes on 13 November 2018. Following these incidents, the most serious since the 2014 war, a cease-fire mediated by Egypt was announced by Hamas on the same day.
Violence used against Palestinian demonstrators - as well as attempts to breach the security fence and the launching of incendiary devices towards Israel - decreased in November 2018.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
There is no policy paper for this country available on the website.