Last year ended with a record number of demolitions and seizures of Palestinian property (nearly 1,100 structures targeted) by the Israeli authorities across the West Bank, mostly on the grounds of lack of building permits, which are almost impossible to obtain. The practice accelerated in the first month of 2017 with 140 structures destroyed or seized, more than 50 per cent higher than the monthly average in 2016. Among the hardest hit was the herding community of Khirbet Tana (Nablus) which witnessed the fifth wave of demolitions since February 2016. The destruction of homes and sources of livelihood, along with other practices such as access restrictions, the denial of basic services and relocation plans, has generated a coercive environment that places already vulnerable communities at risk of forcible transfer.
In this context, this Humanitarian Bulletin highlights the challenges that face the residents of 12 herding communities in southern Hebron (Masafer Yatta) in accessing basic healthcare. The Israeli authorities previously designated this area as a “firing zone” for military training, based on which they are seeking to evict Palestinians living there. In December 2016 the authorities seized a donor-funded caravan used as a clinic in one of these communities, and in January they issued stop-work orders against caravans providing similar functions in another two communities in this area.
Access to healthcare is also a concern in the Gaza Strip. In 2016 the Israeli authorities approved 64 per cent of the applications for exit permits by patients referred for medical treatment outside Gaza, down from over 77 percent in 2015. The number of exits from Gaza via Israel for permit holders of all categories declined by 13 per cent in 2016 in comparison with the previous year. According to the Israeli authorities, in recent months they have put in place a more restrictive vetting process to address security risks.
The phenomenon of attacks by individual unaffiliated Palestinians that started in October 2015 continued in the first month of 2017. In the most serious incident, a Palestinian man drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers on an educational tour in Jerusalem, killing four of them and injuring another 15 before being shot and killed. In the aftermath of the attack, measures implemented by the Israeli authorities against residents of the Jabal al Mukabber area, where the perpetrator lived, raised concerns regarding collective punishment. These measures included the demolition and threat of demolition of dozens of buildings lacking building permits; the revocation of family unification permits from several members of the perpetrator’s family; and initial steps to demolish the perpetrator’s family home.
This month’s Bulletin also presents the third in a series of articles on the humanitarian impact of de facto settlement expansion, featuring Elon Moreh in Nablus governorate. This settlement was originally established in 1979 on private Palestinian land that Israel requisitioned citing military needs; it was subsequently relocated to nearby “state land” following a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court. In recent years, Elon Moreh settlers have extended their control over an area eight times larger than the official boundaries. Most of this land is privately owned by Palestinians from three nearby villages and their sources of livelihood have been severely undermined.
On 1 February 2017, the Israeli authorities implemented a long-overdue court ruling ordering the removal of Amona (Ramallah) settlers from private Palestinian land. The ruling does not include a provision to allow the Palestinian landowners to regain access to their land. On 6 February, the Israeli Parliament approved the “Regularization Bill”, allowing the retroactive legalization under Israeli law of other settlements erected on private Palestinian land. In recent weeks, the Israeli authorities have announced the construction of thousands of new housing units in existing settlements and reportedly pledged to construct an entire new settlement in the Ramallah area. These developments follow UN Security Council Resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016, which reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements and demanded that Israel cease all settlement activities. The resolution also condemned all acts of violence against civilians, incitement and the destruction of property.