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.
Basheer Sous, President of the Beit Jala Farmers’ Society, owns several plots of land in the Al Makhrour area of Beit Jala in Bethlehem governorate, which he shares with his brothers. Al Makhrour extends for approximately 3,000 dunums and in addition to Beit Jala, includes land which the villages of Al Walaja, Batir, Husan, Wadi Fukin and Nahalin have traditionally used. The apricot, olive, fig and almond trees in Al Makhrour, irrigated by natural springs, are an important source of livelihood for farmers from these communities.
The annual olive harvest, which takes place every year between October and November, is a key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians. In the West Bank, more than 10 million olive trees are cultivated on approximately 86,000 hectares of land, representing 47 per cent of the total cultivated agricultural area. Between 80,000 and 100,000 families are said to rely on olives and olive oil for primary or secondary sources of income, and the sector employs large numbers of unskilled laborers and more than 15 per cent of working women. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the olive oil yield for the West Bank in 2019 is estimated to reach a record 27,000 tons, which is an 84 per cent increase over the previous year. The estimated record yield this year is due to the alternate fruit-bearing “on and off seasons” and less infestation by the olive fruit fly during the current season.
It is estimated that 199 Palestinian households currently have eviction cases filed against them, the majority initiated by settler organizations, placing 877 people, including 391 children, at risk of displacement. Evictions can have a grave physical, social, economic and emotional impact on the affected families.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has left the H2 area of Hebron city following the Israeli government’s decision not to renew its mandate beyond 31 January 2019. Combined with intensified harassment and restrictions against residents and the remaining protective presence actors in the area, this increases the protection risks faced by the population, particularly schoolchildren. In his remarks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed regret at Israel’s decision not to renew TIPH’s mandate. He expressed the hope that an agreement can be reached to “preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement”.
Recent developments in East Jerusalem place an extended Palestinian refugee family from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood at risk of imminent forced eviction, following a lengthy legal struggle with an Israeli settler organization. Thirty-two members of the Sabbagh family currently reside in the family home, including six children; at least 19 additional people would be affected by the loss of their family home. This eviction may amount to a forcible transfer, which is a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention. Forced evictions contrary to international law also violate the right to adequate housing and the right to privacy, and may be incompatible with other human rights.
An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story: Israel exercises direct control over the 20 per cent of Hebron City, known as H2, which is home to approximately 40,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers living in five settlement compounds. Policies and practices implemented by the Israeli authorities, citing security concerns, have resulted in the forcible transfer of Palestinians from their homes in Hebron city, reducing a once thriving area to a ‘ghost town’. The living conditions of those Palestinians who remain in the closed and restricted areas have been gradually undermined, including with regard to basic services and sources of livelihood.