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.
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.
2016 trends affecting the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory: Preliminary analysis of data collected by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates that, during 2016 (until 28 December), the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 1,593 Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of another 7,101. These are the highest West Bank demolition and displacement figures at least since OCHA started recording them in 2009. The vast majority of these structures were destroyed or seized for lack of Israeli-issued building permits.
During July and August, nine Palestinians were killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces, mainly in clashes during search and arrest operations (four cases), or during Palestinian attacks and alleged attacks (three cases). Those killed included a 27-year-old pregnant woman shot dead in the H2 area of Hebron city, after allegedly trying to stab a border policeman; a twelve-year-old child hit by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes with Palestinian stone throwers in Ar Ram town (Jerusalem); and a 38-year-old man with mental health problems who failed to respond to orders to stop and was shot while walking near a military tower at the western entrance of Silwad.
The last quarter of 2015 was marked by a sharp rise in stabbing, ramming and shooting attacks by unaffiliated Palestinians against Israelis, as well as almost daily protests and related clashes. As a consequence, the number of casualties among West Bank Palestinians (145 fatalities and over 14,000 injuries) in 2015 was the highest since 2005, when OCHA began documenting incidents. Israeli casualties in the West Bank and Israel were also the highest since 2005 (25 fatalities and 300 injuries). The frequency and intensity of protests and clashes declined sharply during the first half of 2016 alongside a more moderate fall in Palestinian attacks.
In 2015, Palestinian civilians across the oPt continued to be subjected to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settler violence. While most of the year witnessed a relative calm compared to 2014, tension rose in September in East Jerusalem, with protests, clashes and violence spreading to the remaining oPt, including to the Access Restricted Areas in Gaza, and Israel in October. Due to the upsurge in violence in the last quarter, 2015 recorded the highest number of casualties among West Bank Palestinians since 2005. Israeli casualties in the West Bank and Israel, among both Israeli forces and civilians, were also the highest since 2005. In Gaza, the August 2014 ceasefire has largely held, as reflected in the relatively low number of fatalities, although casualties also rose in the final quarter of the year, along with the escalation in the West Bank.
During March, 22 Palestinians, including five children, were killed by Israeli forces in various incidents across the oPt and Israel, including 19 suspected perpetrators of attacks; this is slightly higher than the number of fatalities during the first two months of the year, but well below those recorded in the last quarter of 2015. According to the Israel Security Agency, the overall number of Palestinian attacks (the majority of them involving Molotov cocktails and resulting in no casualties) declined during March by over 25 per cent compared with the previous two months. March was the first month since the escalation of violence in October 2015 in which no Israeli fatalities were recorded, but a foreign national was killed in a stabbing attack in Jaffa (Israel) on 8 March and 11 Israelis were injured.