Since 1967, about 250 Israeli settlements and settlement outposts have been established across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law. Settlements are a key driver of humanitarian vulnerability. The establishment and constant expansion of settlements has had a negative impact on the living conditions of Palestinians, resulting in the loss of property and sources of livelihood, restrictions on access to services, and a range of threats to physical security, which in turn have generated need for assistance and protection measures by the humanitarian community. Some of these impacts are related to Israeli settlers’ attacks on Palestinians, and the lack of adequate law enforcement by the Israeli authorities.
In recent decades, Israeli settler organizations, with the support of the Israeli authorities, have taken control of properties within Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and established settlement compounds.
In recent decades, Israeli settler organizations, with the support of the Israeli authorities, have taken control of properties within Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, and established a number of settlement compounds there. The majority of cases have been challenged unsuccessfully in Israeli courts. Settlements are illegal under international law.
Israeli settler violence against Palestinians has been on the rise since the beginning of 2017. Between January and April 2018, OCHA documented 84 incidents attributed to Israeli settlers resulting in Palestinian casualties (27 incidents) or in damage to Palestinian property (57 incidents). On a monthly average, this is the highest level of incidents recorded since the end of 2014 and represents a 50 and 162 per cent increase compared with 2017 and 2016, respectively (see chart). Israeli security officials have expressed concern over this trend and reportedly increased their presence in ‘friction areas’, particularly near the settlement of Yitzhar, in the northern West Bank.
The 2017 olive harvest season, which lasted roughly from mid-September to mid-November, was reported to have proceeded relatively smoothly. However, an increase in incidents of settler violence, including theft of and damage to olive trees, and restrictions on access to olive groves behind the Barrier and near Israeli settlements, continue to pose challenges for Palestinian farmers.
The seizure of privately owned Palestinian land to establish and expand Israeli settlements has been a common phenomenon from the beginning of the Israeli occupation. In recent years, these actions have been conducted primarily by Israeli settlers without an official permit or authorization, but often with the acquiescence and active support of the Israeli authorities. The resulting loss of property and sources of livelihood, restricted access to services, and a range of protection threats have triggered demand for assistance and protection measures by the humanitarian community.
Settler violence and poor law enforcement by the Israeli authorities have been longstanding concerns. They have undermined the physical security and agricultural livelihoods of tens of thousands of Palestinians in some areas of the West Bank and generated the need for assistance and protection by humanitarian actors, especially for vulnerable groups such as children and women. Humanitarian interventions coordinated by the Protection Cluster include the deployment of a protective presence in high-risk areas; psychosocial support to victims; the installation of protective infrastructure (see case study); the documentation of cases and advocacy; and legal counselling.