Following the widespread destruction and damage of homes during the 2014 Israel-Gaza hostilities, almost a million people became in need of emergency and recovery shelter support and essential non-food items (NFIs). Repair and reconstruction of damaged properties in Gaza has been hampered by slow access to materials and funds. Those displaced due to the war live in precarious conditions and are exposed to a range of protection threats. The Gaza blockade has caused a chronic shortage of housing units and resulted in overcrowding, increases in rental prices, inadequate accommodation and associated health and protection concerns. In East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, Israeli planning policies have undermined the shelter needs of the Palestinian population. Mass displacement is becoming an increasing concern, with dozens of communities identified at high risk of forcible transfer.
I am deeply concerned about the significant reduction in funding for UNRWA, which is critical to the provision of humanitarian assistance in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Some 2.5 million Palestinians in this area, or about half of the population, need humanitarian aid, including 1.4 million Palestine refugees, who are among the most vulnerable groups in the oPt. The reduction is particularly worrying against the backdrop of an overall decline in humanitarian funding in the oPt in recent years.
Intense military training exercises over the past two months and the obstruction of key access routes have exacerbated the coercive environment imposed on approximately 1,300 residents of 12 Palestinian herding communities in southern Hebron.
Eight winter-related projects of the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan are underway following the allocation of around $3 million by the oPt Humanitarian Fund (HF) in late November 2016. More than two thirds of the projects are run by national NGOs either directly or in partnership with UN agencies/ international NGOs. The projects target more than 181,000 Palestinians who are at risk of displacement and/or face safety hazards due to winter weather conditions, particularly flooding and storms. Six projects are in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank.
Additional restrictions imposed by Israel from April 2016 on the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip, have slowed the pace of reconstruction of homes destroyed or damaged during the 2014 conflict, and prolong the vulnerability of more than 10,000 families who are still displaced.
As the rainy season approaches, thousands of families in the Gaza Strip will once again be at risk of temporary displacement and the destruction of assets due to flooding. The winter weather conditions are expected to exacerbate the already fragile living conditions and livelihoods of large segments of the Palestinian population. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) cluster and its partners have identified flood risk areas throughout the Gaza Strip, potentially affecting nearly 500,000 people, as well as 64 schools and 10 health centres.
The forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians across the oPt takes place in the context of Israel’s prolonged occupation and lack of respect for international law, compounded by recurrent rounds of hostilities in the Gaza Strip. Although no major displacement occurred in Gaza in 2015, internally displaced persons there continue to suffer from the devastating consequences of the 2014 hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, with an estimated 90,000 people still displaced during the second half of 2015. Israeli policies and practices in certain parts of the West Bank, particularly in Area C and East Jerusalem, have contributed to the creation of a coercive environment that undermines a Palestinian physical presence and exacerbates the risk of individual and mass forcible transfers. The planning system applied in Area C favours Israeli settlement interests over the needs of the protected population and makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits: between 2010 and 2014, Palestinians submitted 2,020 applications for building permits in Area C, of which 33 were approved. A similarly restrictive planning regime in East Jerusalem has resulted in only 13 per cent of the municipal area zoned for Palestinian construction, most of which is already built up.