Over 60 per cent of the West Bank is considered Area C, where Israel retains near exclusive control, including over law enforcement, planning and construction. Most of Area C has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military, at the expense of Palestinian communities. This impedes the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods in Palestinian communities, and has significant consequences for the entire West Bank population. Structures built without permits are regularly served with demolition orders, creating chronic uncertainty and threat, and encouraging people to leave. Where the orders are implemented, they have resulted in displacement and disruption of livelihoods, the entrenchment of poverty and increased aid dependency. The humanitarian community has faced a range of difficulties in providing aid in Area C, including the demolition and confiscation of assistance by the Israeli authorities.
A Vulnerability Profile of Palestinian communities in Area C is available here.
The seizure of privately owned Palestinian land to establish and expand Israeli settlements has been a common phenomenon from the beginning of the Israeli occupation. In recent years, these actions have been conducted primarily by Israeli settlers without an official permit or authorization, but often with the acquiescence and active support of the Israeli authorities. The resulting loss of property and sources of livelihood, restricted access to services, and a range of protection threats have triggered demand for assistance and protection measures by the humanitarian community.
In October, legal cases filed with the Israeli HCJ in relation to four Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley ruled in favour of demolitions due to lack of building permits, which are rarely granted by the Israeli authorities for Palestinians. Consequently, more than 200 structures, 26 per cent of which were donor-funded, in the communities of Makhul, Humsa al-Baqai’a, al Farisiya-Ihmayyer and al Farisiya-Nabe al Ghazal are under threat of demolition. An estimated 171 people, over 50 per cent of whom are children, are at imminent risk of displacement. Demolitions or the threat of demolitions, along with discriminatory planning policies that make it near impossible for Palestinian residents of Area C to obtain authorization for construction, are among the Israeli policies identified by the Secretary-General as generating a coercive environment that puts pressure on Palestinians to leave their communities and creates a risk of forcible transfer.
The targeting of key service infrastructure in already vulnerable communities in Area C in recent months has exacerbated the coercive environment and places residents at risk of forcible transfer. In August, on the eve of the new school year, the Israeli authorities requisitioned nine educational-related structures serving 170 children in three such communities.
The restrictive planning regime applied in Area C, which comprises over 60 per cent of the West Bank and where Israel retains near exclusive control, makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits. This prevents them from developing basic services in their communities, including education. Over a third of the residential areas in Area C (189 out of 532) lack a primary school and children are forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, to reach the nearest school.
In 2002, following a wave of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings, Israel began building a Barrier with the stated aim of preventing these attacks. The vast majority of the Barrier’s route is located within the West Bank; it separates Palestinian communities and farming land from the rest of the West Bank, and contributes to the fragmentation of the oPt.
Since the 1970s, Israel has declared some 18 per cent of the West Bank, or nearly 30 per cent of Area C, as firing zones for military training. A presence in these zones is prohibited by military order unless special permission is granted. Despite this prohibition, there are 38 small Palestinian herding communities with a population of over 6,200 located within these zones. Many of these communities existed in the area prior to its closure.