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.
In East Jerusalem, as in Area C of the West Bank, a restrictive planning regime applied by Israel makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, impeding the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods. Only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built up, while 35 per cent has been allocated for Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
The demolition of residential, livelihood and service infrastructure, on the grounds of a lack of Israeli-issued permits, has continued throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. In the first three months of 2019, a total of 136 Palestinian structures were demolished in the West Bank, of which 48 were in East Jerusalem and 88 in Area C, displacing 218 people, including 97 children and 57 women.
The high level of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians reported during the first four months of 2018 in an earlier Humanitarian Bulletin, continued through October as the annual olive harvest began. Since the start of 2018, OCHA has documented 217 incidents attributed to Israeli settlers that have resulted in Palestinian casualties (60 incidents) or in damage to Palestinian property (157 incidents). As a monthly average, this is the highest level of incidents recorded since 2014 and represents a 57 and 175 per cent increase compared with 2017 and 2016 respectively (see chart).
Recent developments have exacerbated the vulnerability of Palestinians living in, or dependent on access to, an area in eastern Nablus governorate designated in the 1970s as closed for Israeli military training: “Firing Zone 904A”. These developments have included military exercises involving temporary displacement, property damage, disruption to life and new access restrictions. In recent years this area has witnessed increasing settlement activities, including violence and intimidation, alongside a reduced Palestinian presence.
In recent months, the Israeli authorities have passed or advanced new legislation that will significantly limit the ability of individual and human rights organizations to challenge the demolition or seizure of Palestinian properties in Area C and East Jerusalem.
Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, the Head of West Bank Operations for UNRWA, Mr. Scott Anderson, and the Head of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. James Heenan, expressed serious concern over demolitions and related events in vulnerable Palestinian communities in the central West Bank