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.
I am deeply concerned by the Israeli authorities’ demolition this morning of two donor-funded classrooms (3rd and 4th grade), serving 26 Palestinian school children in the Bedouin and refugee community of Abu Nuwar, located in Area C on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The demolition was carried out on grounds of lack of Israeli-issued permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain.
Many Palestinians in East Jerusalem are subject to a coercive environment with the risk of forcible transfer due to Israeli policies such as home demolitions, forced evictions and revocation of residency status. As is the case in Area C, a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain the requisite Israeli building permits: only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction and much of this is already built-up. Palestinians who build without permits face the risk of home demolition and other penalties, including costly fines, the payment of which does not exempt the owner from the requirement to obtain a building permit.3At least a third of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack an Israeli-issued building permit, potentially placing over 100,000 residents at risk of displacement.
Intense military training exercises over the past two months and the obstruction of key access routes have exacerbated the coercive environment imposed on approximately 1,300 residents of 12 Palestinian herding communities in southern Hebron.
The 2017 olive harvest season, which lasted roughly from mid-September to mid-November, was reported to have proceeded relatively smoothly. However, an increase in incidents of settler violence, including theft of and damage to olive trees, and restrictions on access to olive groves behind the Barrier and near Israeli settlements, continue to pose challenges for Palestinian farmers.
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.