Monthly Overview: March-April 2016
The demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihood structures on the grounds of the lack of an Israeli building permit continued in the West Bank during March and April, placing households and entire communities at risk of forcible transfer. So far this year (as of mid-April), the Israeli authorities have demolished or confiscated nearly 600 Palestinian structures and displaced over 800 people. This is almost four times the monthly average for demolitions in 2015. More than one quarter of the targeted structures had been provided as humanitarian assistance, three times the monthly average in 2015. In his briefing to the UN Security Council on 18 April, the UN Secretary-General expressed his concern at the “alarming rate” of demolitions, noting that “Israel makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to acquire permits”.
Ongoing preparations for a new Israeli settlement in the southern West Bank have raised additional protection concerns, as highlighted in this Humanitarian Bulletin. In the aforementioned briefing, the Secretary-General warned that the “creation of new facts on the ground through demolitions and settlement building raises questions about whether Israel’s ultimate goal is, in fact, to drive Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank, thereby undermining any prospect of transition to a viable Palestinian state”.
This Bulletin also details some of the challenges to the reconstruction of homes destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 escalation of hostilities, in particular issues related to the registration of land with the Gaza authorities and the lack of adequate planning. An OCHA report released in April, presents the findings of a survey of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gaza as a result of such destruction, with an estimated 75,000 still homeless as we approach the second anniversary of the hostilities. As of writing, funding is still needed to reconstruct some 6,600 houses, or about 37 per cent of the overall caseload.
Referring to the Gaza Strip, the Secretary-General listed some recent concerns, including the continued failure of intra-Palestinian discussions to achieve genuine unity, the closing down of the Gaza Power Plant due to lack of fuel on 8 April, and the discovery of a tunnel crossing from Gaza into Israel on 18 April, described as a “dangerous and provocative move”. He noted that the conditions in Gaza are “intolerable”, and strongly encouraged “all Member States to fulfill their commitments to support the reconstruction and development of Gaza”.
The wave of violence that started in October 2015 continued into March with a number of Palestinian fatalities, the majority of them suspected perpetrators of attacks. The figures were slightly higher than those for the first two months of the year. Pre-existing concerns about the excessive use of force by Israeli forces in responding to Palestinian attacks were underscored during March by an incident caught on camera, showing the “apparent extra-judicial execution”[i] of a suspected perpetrator by a soldier, who was later arrested and indicted of manslaughter. This Bulletin also covers Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel and Israeli airstrikes into Gaza, which in March resulted in the killing of two Palestinian children and both of which exacerbates the risk of further large-scale escalation.
In his reference to the ongoing violence, the Secretary-General reiterated: “There can never be any justification for stabbings, vehicle attacks, shootings, incitements to violence, or the glorification of killers”. He also noted that a “twenty-year-old Palestinian living under occupation has seen no political progress at all during his or her lifetime. Impatience and despair at that fact is one of the root causes of the violence… It is incumbent on all of us to do everything in our power to secure lasting peace”.
At risk of forcible transfer
The forcible transfer of protected persons from their normal place of residence is prohibited under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which also forbids deportations outside an occupied territory. Many Palestinian families and communities throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are at risk of forcible transfer as Israeli practices have created a coercive environment that puts pressure on them to move. Although Bedouin and herders in Area C bear the brunt of this pressure, forcible transfer also takes other forms. The two sections below are the first in a series of articles in the Humanitarian Bulletin highlighting a range of situations across the oPt where Palestinians have been placed at heightened risk of forcible transfer.