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.
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.
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.