Annual Report: Palestinian Authority 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Palestinian Authority 2011

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Head of state: Mahmoud Abbas
Head of government: Salam Fayyad
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 4.4 million
Life expectancy: 73.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 23/18 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 94.1 per cent

In the West Bank, the security forces of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) arbitrarily detained people connected with Hamas, while in the Gaza Strip the Hamas de facto administration arbitrarily detained people connected with Fatah. In both areas, detainees were tortured and otherwise ill-treated with virtual impunity. Both the PA and Hamas restricted freedom of expression and association. In Gaza, at least 11 people were sentenced to death and five executions were carried out, the first since 2005. The humanitarian crisis for the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million residents deepened as Israel's military blockade of the territory, as well as sanctions on the de facto Hamas authorities imposed by other states, were maintained.

Background

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip remained under Israeli occupation, although two separate non-state Palestinian authorities operated with limited powers - the Fatah-led caretaker PA government in the West Bank headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; and the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza headed by former PA Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyeh. Tension between Fatah and Hamas remained high.

Hamas and its affiliated armed groups largely maintained the unofficial ceasefire with Israel in force since January 2009, but other Palestinian armed groups sporadically fired indiscriminate rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israel.

The PA continued to be recognized internationally as the sole representative of Palestinians and participated in new negotiations for a political settlement with Israel convened by the US government in September. The talks broke down when Israel refused to extend a partial moratorium on construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. Hamas was excluded from any formal involvement in the negotiations.

Israel maintained control of Gaza's borders and airspace, and imposed extensive restrictions on movement throughout the West Bank. Israel's continuing military blockade of Gaza severely affected living conditions for inhabitants, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis there. Some 80 per cent of Gazans were reliant on international humanitarian relief. Movement of people into and out of Gaza was strictly controlled and limited, even for those seriously ill and in need of specialist medical treatment not available in Gaza. The continuing ban by Israel on a wide range of imports, despite some "easing" announced in June and December, had a severely negative impact on food security, health and local infrastructure. The blockade constituted collective punishment, a breach of international humanitarian law. Some 46 Palestinians were killed and 89 others were injured in underground tunnels used for smuggling basic goods into Gaza from Egypt; they died or were injured as a result of Israeli air strikes, tunnel collapses and other accidents.

Several Latin American states formally recognized Palestine as an independent state on the basis of its 1967 borders.

The Hamas authorities failed to investigate alleged war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by Hamas' military wing and other Palestinian armed groups during Operation "Cast Lead", the 22-day military offensive launched by Israel that ended on 18 January 2009. In September 2009, the UN Fact Finding Mission's report had recommended that both Israel and the relevant Palestinian authorities be given six months to investigate and prosecute those responsible for war crimes committed during the conflict. The Hamas de facto administration, in a report submitted to the UN in February, denied that Palestinian armed groups had targeted civilians. A committee appointed by Hamas stated in another report published in July that there was no "credible testimony" to charge individuals with intentionally targeting Israeli civilians.

Hamas continued to deny Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier taken captive in June 2006, access to the ICRC or visits from his family.