Palestinian civilians across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are subject to threats to their lives and physical safety from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settler violence. In the Gaza Strip, three large rounds of hostilities between Palestinian armed groups and Israel since 2008, have left thousands of civilian deaths and injuries. In the West Bank, casualties have also been on the rise in recent years, mainly in the context of confrontations with Israeli forces and increasing frustration over continued occupation. Throughout the oPt, concerns have been raised over excessive use of force. Although the specific contexts in which civilians are killed or injured varies, there is a pervasive crisis of accountability, with no effective remedy for the vast majority of alleged violations of international law, to ensure justice for the victims and to prevent future violations.
Following the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 6 December 2017, the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) experienced heightened tensions and violence, mainly Palestinian protests and clashes, which resulted in a significant rise in casualties versus previous months.
According to UN Women, gender-based violence (GBV) in the oPt has assumed a higher profile in recent years. In 2010 the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) undertook a survey which revealed that levels of domestic violence had declined in the West Bank compared with 2005, but had increased in the Gaza Strip. The rise in GBV in Gaza was attributed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation following the Israeli blockade imposed after the Hamas takeover in 2007, and the devastating impact of the ‘Cast Lead’ hostilities in December 2008-January 2009.
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.
In April 2017, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) cleared the last known accessible aerial bomb in Gaza, marking an important milestone in addressing the legacy of unexploded ordnance contamination in Gaza. Since the 2014 conflict, UNMAS has cleared and destroyed 29 metric tonnes of explosive material from 149 unexploded aerial bombs. This critical work protects both Gaza communities directly impacted by the presence of unexploded ordnance and the wider community through the removal and destruction of explosive materials which could be harvested and reused for improvised explosive devices.
Violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, primarily during demonstrations and search and arrest operations, have been on the rise in recent years. In 2016, 19 Palestinians were killed and over 3,200 injured during such clashes; nearly 14 per cent of these injuries were from live ammunition. Serious injuries often result in long-term disability, rendering young Palestinians in constant need of medical treatment and humanitarian assistance, and disrupting the lives of their entire families.
Accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by all sides during successive hostilities in Gaza is an urgent priority. Failure to ensure effective accountability for lives lost, homes destroyed and damage wrought fuels a culture of impunity that can lead to further violations. Eight years after the 2008-2009 (Cast Lead) hostilities in Gaza, victims are still bearing the consequences while lack of accountability persists.