Destruction of Property

Gaza, 2014In 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.

Articles, statements and press releases

13 May 2018 |

Humanitarian agencies operating in the Gaza Strip warned today that a prolonged closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza’s almost exclusive point for the entry of goods, may exacerbate the already dire situation of services and livelihoods.

18 April 2018 |
Khan al Ahmar, 18 April 2018

Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, and the UNRWA Director of Operations in the West Bank, Mr. Scott Anderson, joined Palestinian officials in a visit to the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar-Abu al Helu, on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied Palestinian territory.

5 April 2018 |
Nabila Mousa in the PMRS mobile health clinic in Khan al Ahmar, March 2018. ©  Photo by: Health Cluster.

Over 220,000 Palestinians living in 189 communities across the West Bank lack a permanent clinic and face critical challenges in accessing basic health services. These communities include, primarily, those located in Area C, in the Israeli-controlled parts of Hebron city (H2), and in the closed areas behind the Barrier (the Seam Zone). In many of these areas, the journey to the nearest clinic has lengthened because of the need to travel circuitous ways around settlements and barriers. Access to healthcare can be hampered by the unavailability or high costs of transportation, and in some communities, access to emergency services is challenging as even ambulances face delays.

15 March 2018 |
Demolitions in Bir Onah, next to the ‘tunnels road’ that connects the Etzion settlement ©  Photo by OCHA

During the first two months of 2018, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized a total of 70 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank. On average, this is the same number of monthly demolitions recorded in 2017 (35), and around one-third of figures recorded in 2016 (91). Around 30 per cent of the structures targeted in 2018 were residential and 81 people were displaced. The remainder were livelihood-related or public structures, including two school classrooms. An assessment by humanitarian actors of the education sector indicates that 44 Palestinian schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are at risk of full or partial demolition or seizure due to the lack of an Israeli-issued building permit.

4 February 2018 |

I am deeply concerned by the Israeli authorities’ demolition this morning of two donor-funded classrooms (3rd and 4th grade), serving 26 Palestinian school children in the Bedouin and refugee community of Abu Nuwar, located in Area C on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The demolition was carried out on grounds of lack of Israeli-issued permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain.

15 January 2018 |
: هدم مبنى من أربعة طوابق في العيسوية في القدس الشرقية، 11  يوليو  © - تصوير مكتب الأمم المتحدة لتنسيق الشؤون الإنسانية (أوتشا)

Many Palestinians in East Jerusalem are subject to a coercive environment with the risk of forcible transfer due to Israeli policies such as home demolitions, forced evictions and revocation of residency status. As is the case in Area C, a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain the requisite Israeli building permits: only 13 per cent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction and much of this is already built-up. Palestinians who build without permits face the risk of home demolition and other penalties, including costly fines, the payment of which does not exempt the owner from the requirement to obtain a building permit.3At least a third of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack an Israeli-issued building permit, potentially placing over 100,000 residents at risk of displacement.