In recent years, large numbers of civilian properties have been destroyed in the course of hostilities and military operations, mostly in the Gaza Strip. Properties have also been subject to demolition or confiscation as part of the Israeli-imposed planning and zoning regime in Area C and East Jerusalem parts of the West Bank, and to punitive demolition or sealing following attacks on Israelis. In some areas, properties are also destroyed by settlers, who engage in politically-motivated attacks and, for example, set agricultural land on fire, leading to reduced access to services, loss of income and more.
The destruction of property in an occupied territory is prohibited under international humanitarian law, unless absolutely necessary for military operations. Although the humanitarian response to such practices includes the delivery of shelters, these have also been often subject to demolition or confiscation.
OCHA monitors the demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property in the West Bank through its online Demolition System. Official data on demolition orders in Area C is available here.
Following a rise in Palestinian attacks since October 2015, and citing the need for deterrence and prevention, the Israeli authorities have implemented measures that penalize Palestinians for acts that they did not commit and for which they are not criminally responsible. These measures include the destruction of the family homes of Palestinians who carried out an attack or are suspected of carrying out or planning attacks, and the closure of localities where some of these suspects lived. These practices raise concerns about collective punishment, which is prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Since the beginning of 2017, a number of developments have generated additional pressure on Palestinian Bedouin communities located within and around the area designated by the Israeli authorities for the E1 settlement plan and the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim settlement in eastern Jerusalem governorate. The 18 communities in this area belong to a larger group of 46 Bedouin communities in the central West Bank, which the Israeli authorities seek to “relocate” to three designated sites.
On 22 February, the Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and UN Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, and Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Scott Anderson, visited the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar in Area C, in the immediate outskirts of East Jerusalem.
During January 2017, OCHA recorded the demolition of 140 structures by the Israeli authorities, displacing around 240 Palestinians and affecting another 4,000. The number of structures demolished during the first month of the year was over 50 per cent higher than the monthly average of structures targeted in 2016 (91). All of these demolitions were carried out in Area C and East Jerusalem on the grounds of lack of building permits, although these are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians.
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.
In September and October 2016 the Israeli authorities confiscated, demolished, or forced Palestinians to demolish, 155 structures across the West Bank, displacing some 240 people, half them children, and otherwise affecting more than 350 people. All but two of these incidents took place on the grounds that no Israeli-issued building permits had been issued, which are almost impossible to obtain. Although the average number of structures targeted during the past two months is 25 per cent lower than the monthly average for the previous eight months (January-August), the cumulative figure since the beginning of 2016 is over 80 per cent higher than during all of 2015 and the highest since OCHA began its records of demolitions in 2009.