The occupied Palestinian territories at a glance
A Disaster Waiting to Happen
The protracted crisis in the oPT has gotten worse. Despite support for development and reconstruction programmes, and the renewal of funding to the Palestinian Authority, GDP in the West Bank is one third lower than in 1999 and aid dependency has increased. While the situation in the West Bank is troubling, conditions are significantly worse in Gaza and deteriorated even further when conflict suddenly escalated on 28 December, 2008. After the end of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) initiated a heavy military operation within Gaza, citing the launch of homemade Palestinian mortars over Israeli territories and the breach of the ceasefire. The crisis caught donors and humanitarian agencies unprepared – despite it having been essentially ‘announced in advance’. It worsened an already dire humanitarian situation, and the highly politicised international response jeopardised the flow of essential aid to civilians. Overall, this crisis revealed an alarming shrinkage of the humanitarian space in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Looking to the future, the main challenge in the region is to preserve humanitarian action from political conditionality. The complexity of this conflict precludes optimism: this will not be the last humanitarian disaster experienced by civilians in the oPT. Thus, an appropriate humanitarian strategy – one grounded in humanitarian principles and free of conditionality or politicisation – becomes more vital than ever. Yet it remains to be seen how successfully donors can – or will – disengage their political agendas and humanitarian action to effectively provide relief, protection, and recovery to the victims of this conflict.