This is the sixth year in which the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has detailed the key humanitarian concerns in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The purpose of the report is to provide a trend analysis of some of the key indicators underlying humanitarian vulnerabilities in the oPt in a given year.
The humanitarian context of oPt is unique amongst today's humanitarian crises and remains directly tied to the impact of the Israeli occupation, now in its 50th year. The occupation denies Palestinians control over basic aspects of daily life, whether they live in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Their ability to move unimpeded within their own country, to exit and return, to develop large parts of their territory, build on their own land, access natural resources or develop their economy is largely determined by the Israeli military. The prolonged occupation, with no end in sight, cultivates a sense of hopelessness and frustration that drives continued conflict and impacts both Palestinians and Israelis.
Israel's occupation is a key driver of humanitarian need, to which the international community responds. At the end of 2016, 4.8 million in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. The vast majority of Palestinians in need are exposed to conflict and violence, displacement and restricted access to livelihoods and essential services, such as water, healthcare, shelter and education. To fund a range of interventions to meet these needs, the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the oPt, launched in December 2016, appealed for US$ 547 million.
As in previous years, the Humanitarian Overview for 2016 is structured around the key concerns and advocacy priorities identified by humanitarian partners in the oPt: Life, Liberty & Security, which includes Palestinian and Israeli casualties from conflict-related violence, settler violence and the detention of Palestinians; Forced Displacement, driven by escalations of hostilities in Gaza and by a coercive environment generated by Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank; Movement & Access, focusing on the physical and administrative restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinian people and goods throughout the oPt; and Humanitarian Space, detailing the obstacles that restrict the access of personnel and materials needed for humanitarian projects. Accountability, a cross-cutting theme, essential to reduce future vulnerability, is addressed throughout the report.
LIFE, LIBERTY AND SECURITY
Palestinian civilians across the oPt continued to be subjected to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, now in its 50th year. In the Gaza Strip, the 2014 ceasefire has largely held, as reflected in the relatively low number of Palestinian, and no Israeli, casualties. In the West Bank, the violence that erupted in late 2015 continued at a reduced level. In total, Palestinian fatalities from conflict-related violence in the oPt and Israel declined by 37% compared to 2015 (107 vs. 169); the decline in Israeli fatalities was 48%. Palestinian injuries declined by about 80% compared to 2015 (3,247 vs. 15,477), with about 95% of the injuries recorded in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Security considerations notwithstanding, concerns remain over possible excessive use of force and extra-judicial executions by Israeli forces in their response to certain Palestinian attacks or suspected attacks, particularly after the threat has been neutralized.1 Accountability is essential to ensure justice for victims and to prevent future violations.
The forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians across the oPt takes place in the context of Israel's prolonged occupation, compounded by recurrent rounds of violence in the Gaza Strip, where an estimated 47,000 people remained displaced at the end of 2016 from the 2014 hostilities. Throughout the West Bank, many Palestinians are at risk of displacement and/or forcible transfer due to a coercive environment generated by Israeli policies and practices, which create pressure on residents to leave their communities. These practices include the demolition or threat of demolition of homes, schools and livelihood structures, on the grounds of the lack of building permits, which are almost impossible to obtain; plans to relocate Palestinian Bedouin communities to urban townships; restrictions on access to natural resources; the denial of basic service infrastructure; and the lack of secure residency, among others. They are often implemented against the backdrop of the expansion of Israeli settlements.
MOVEMENT AND ACCESS RESTRICTIONS
Citing security considerations, Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the oPt, including between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, through a combination of physical obstacles (such as the Barrier and checkpoints) and bureaucratic constraints (particularly permits and the designation of areas as restricted or closed). Combined, despite recent easings, these restrictions impede access to services and resources, disrupt family and social life, undermine livelihoods and compound the fragmentation of the oPt. The number of Palestinians allowed to leave Gaza by the Israeli authorities, which increased after the 2014 hostilities, has been in decline since the second half of 2016 although the volume of produce leaving Gaza has risen significantly since late 2014. The isolation of Gaza has been exacerbated since 2014 by Egypt's closure of the Rafah crossing, which, combined with restrictions on the Israeli-controlled crossings, leaves the 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza 'locked in', unable to access the remainder of the oPt or the outside world.
In 2016, humanitarian organizations continued to face a range of obstacles from the Israeli authorities. These include physical and administrative restrictions on the access and movement of humanitarian actors, especially national employees; restrictions on the delivery of materials needed for humanitarian projects; and limitations on the implementation of projects that involve building, expanding or rehabilitating infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, Area C, and East Jerusalem. Such obstacles have hampered the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide assistance and protection to Palestinians throughout the oPt. Humanitarian operations in Gaza were also impeded by restrictions imposed by, and the prohibition on contact with, the Hamas authorities, in addition to the continuing closure of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the ongoing internal Palestinian divide.