Thousands of Palestinians throughout the occupied Palestinian territory have been forcibly displaced or are at risk of forced displacement, which has immediate and longer-term physical, socio-economic and psycho-social impacts on Palestinian families, particularly on children. In the West Bank, displacement is primarily driven by occupation-related policies, including the inability to obtain building permits and related demolitions, residency status issues and the impact of the Barrier. In some cases, entire West Bank communities are at risk of forcible transfer. In the Gaza Strip, displacement has primarily resulted from damage or destruction to homes during hostilities or military operations. Many displaced people in Gaza are unable to rebuild or repair their homes due to the inability of the Palestinian Government of National Consensus to assume effective government functions; Israel’s longstanding restrictions on the import of building materials defined as “dual use items”; and the slow pace of disbursement of pledges made by member states for reconstruction.
OCHA monitors displacement of Palestinians due to home demolitions in the West Bank through its online Demolition System. Official data on demolition orders in Area C is available here.
Since the 1970s, Israel has declared some 18 per cent of the West Bank, or nearly 30 per cent of Area C, as firing zones for military training. A presence in these zones is prohibited by military order unless special permission is granted. Despite this prohibition, there are 38 small Palestinian herding communities with a population of over 6,200 located within these zones. Many of these communities existed in the area prior to its closure.
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.