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.
A new fence installed by the Israeli authorities around two Palestinian neighbourhoods in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), As Salaymeh and Gheith, further separates up to 1,800 Palestinians from the rest of the city. This is in addition to the recent reinforcement (including the installment of turnstiles) of two pre-existing checkpoints controlling access to the area where the new fence was installed. These developments disrupt the livelihoods and family life of Palestinians living in the two neighbourhoods and limit access to basic services like health and education.
During the month of Ramadan (27 May-26 June), Israeli authorities reported that around 348,000 Palestinians holding West Bank ID cards entered East Jerusalem for Friday prayers and Laylat al Qadr (the night of destiny) at Al Aqsa Mosque in relaxed measures to mark the month of Ramadan. This represents an increase of 15 per cent over the equivalent figures in 2016. Additionally, 453 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were allowed access to East Jerusalem for these events. While arrangements at checkpoints to facilitate travel to Al Aqsa Mosque, were put in place, vulnerable groups including elderly, children, and people with disabilities faced several challenges. During the month, one major Palestinian attack resulted in the death of an Israeli police officer and led to the partial suspension of the relaxation measures.
The natural water spring of ‘Ein Fera’a, one the largest in western Hebron governorate, is the sole source of water for a herding community carrying the same name that moved close to the spring some 30 years ago. The residents comprise about 11 households with about 80 people in total, all registered refugees. They rely on the spring for domestic water consumption and for watering their livestock, which is their prime source of livelihood. The landowner of the spring, a resident of the nearby town of Dura, also uses the water for irrigating the adjacent land, where he grows seasonal vegetables and crops. On hot summer days and when there are water shortages, he also pumps water from the underground pool to sell to families in Dura.
Since 2008, the Israeli authorities have introduced aged-based criteria during the month of Ramadan that allow Palestinians holding West Bank ID cards to access Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem for Friday prayers in lieu of the normal permit requirements. The criteria differ slightly every year but in 2013, 2015 and 2016 all Palestinian women, irrespective of age, were allowed to enter East Jerusalem for Friday prayers. In 2016, access for men was limited to males under 12 and above 45 years of age.
The allocation of public land to settlements and the takeover of private land by settler groups have reduced the space available for Palestinians to sustain their livelihoods in an increasingly fragmented West Bank and have impacted on a range of human rights. Combined with the unlawful and discriminatory zoning and planning policy applied in Area C and in East Jerusalem, these settlement-related phenomena have undermined the living conditions of Palestinians and rendered them increasingly vulnerable, including to the risk of individual or mass forcible transfer.