This report updates a previous version published on 5 December 2018. It describes the security situation in the Gaza Strip, in particular during the 6 months from 1 December 2018 to 31 May 2019. It does not examine the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
Cedoca has to process an overabundance of information on the humanitarian and security situation in the Palestinian Territories. This report offers a synthesis of the main events in order to give a clearer view of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and its latest developments.
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 as well as violence by participants of the Great March of Return to force 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 oversteps certain limits. In 2014, one such episode triggered operation “Protective Edge”, the most devastating military intervention in the Gaza Strip since 2007. More recently, in March and May 2019, long-range rockets were fired into Israeli territory, to which Israel responded with air strikes on targets linked to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. OCHA considers the events in May 2019 as the “most serious” violence since the 2014 conflict.
During the period ranging from 1 December 2018 to 31 May 2019, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were affected by violent clashes along the security fence during the Great March of Return movement and during the two periods of Israeli air strikes already mentioned. Additionally, there were regular artillery strikes in the terrestrial and maritime buffer zone.
According to OCHA, the use of force by the IDF in the Gaza Strip caused 40 civilian dead between 1 January and 20 May 2019: 24 men, 4 women, 11 boys (under 18) and one girl (under 18). Twenty-two civilians were killed by firearms, 12 by Israeli air strikes and 5 by tear gas. During the first 5 months of 2019, OCHA counted 6,608 injured in the Gaza Strip, more than 98% of them during demonstrations organised as part of the Great March of Return. Human Rights Watch considers that Israel’s use of deadly force constitutes a “potential war crime”. A commission set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council focused its enquiry on three days of demonstrations in 2018. In its report, released on 28 February 2019, the UN commission deplores the massive use of live ammunition against civilian demonstrators who represented no immediate threat to Israeli soldiers and were not taking part in hostilities. During the escalation of violence in March and May 2019, Israeli air strikes, though intense, caused few casualties, due to short-notice warnings by the IDF to evacuate civilian buildings chosen as targets.
The Hamas and Israel have been holding indirect talks since 15 May 2019, with Egypt acting as mediator with the assistance of the UN Special Envoy for the Middle-East peace process. Some progress was recorded in early November 2018, but weariness on the Palestinian side as to the lack of follow-up by Israel may have caused Palestinian factions to start hostilities in May 2019. According to the latest cease-fire agreement, both parties must implement their previous engagements. Israel, which refused entry to the Qatari ambassador at the end of April 2019, must authorise the transfer of $ 30 million per month to the Gaza Strip and to reopen its border-crossings. For their part, the Palestinian factions have agreed to stop launching incendiary balloons over southern Israel and to keep demonstrators at a distance from the security fence. In the longer term, according to the ICG, the agreement between Hamas and Israel includes the implementation of economic and humanitarian measures. Huge infrastructure projects financed by European donors, the World Bank and Qatar are to address the problematic situation in the fields of drinking water, liquid waste treatment and power supply. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade is to be reduced by 70% and the number of exit permits is to be increased. The final stage includes rebuilding Gaza and renewed authorisation for its inhabitants to work in Israel.
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.