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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
31 May 2012

Executive Summary

The 2011 Humanitarian Overview addresses the key advocacy priorities identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), the main humanitarian coordinating body for UN agencies and NGO partners in the oPt. The report identifies the following trends in the main priority areas:

Life, Liberty and Security

Palestinian civilians throughout the oPt face threats to their life, security and property as a result of policies and practices relating to the ongoing occupation, as well as intermittent outbreaks of hostilities. Overall, 2011 witnessed an increase in Palestinian fatalities and injuries caused by the Israeli military. In the West Bank there was also a significant increase in settler-related violence, directed both against persons and their properties. Israeli civilians are also threatened by rockets and mortar shells fired indiscriminately at southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups, although those directly affected are fewer. While the context in which civilians are killed or injured differs, the common denominator affecting all victims of unlawful acts of violence is a pervasive absence of accountability and a culture of impunity, resulting from lack of respect for international law by the parties and failure of law enforcement on the part of Israeli authorities.

Forced Displacement

Forced displacement represents a growing threat to vulnerable Palestinian communities in the oPt, as a result of policies and practices enforced by Israeli authorities. In 2011, both the number of structures demolished (622) and the number of persons displaced (1,094) in the West Bank was the highest since OCHA started collecting statistics systematically in 2006. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home demolitions are the direct cause of most displacement. However, a combination of other factors, including the revocation of residency rights, settler violence, movement restrictions, and restrictions on planning and zoning and access to services and resources, contribute to the displacement of Palestinians from their communities, particularly in Area C, where the Israeli authorities retain full control over security and planning and zoning. Israeli military operations have been the main cause of displacement in the Gaza Strip; an estimated 15,000 remain displaced from the ‘Cast Lead’ offensive in 2008/09.

Restictions on Movement and Access

Movement and access within the oPt is restricted by a combination of physical obstacles – most notably the Barrier, checkpoints – and by bureaucratic constraints, such as permits and access restricted areas. This multi-layered system impacts the flow of both persons and goods into the Gaza Strip; between Gaza and the West Bank; within the West Bank itself, and into East Jerusalem from the remainder of the oPt. These restrictions also impact access to services – health, education, and housing – on the part of the Palestinian population, in addition to limiting the capacity of the local and international organizations who deliver assistance to the most vulnerable populations. In the Gaza Strip the blockade continues to be the main impediment to access, economic recovery and restoration of basic rights. In the West Bank, the application of movement and access restrictions is discriminatory, targeting mostly Palestinian residents, for the benefit of the Israeli settler population.

Humanitarian Space

In 2011, while the capacity of humanitarian organizations to provide assistance benefited from the absence of large-scale violence, a mixture of bureaucratic, physical and political constraints continue to significantly undermine the ability of humanitarian actors to function and deliver assistance throughout the oPt. The situation is exacerbated by the fragmentation of the oPt into disconnected areas – the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the ‘Seam Zone’, and the rest of the West Bank. Even those parts of the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority (Areas A & B), are non-contiguous and are divided by swathes of Area C.

Overall, while the Palestinian Authority’s state-building initiative continued in those parts of the West Bank which it controls (Areas A & B), 2011witnessed the continuing fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Gaza Strip remains effectively isolated by the blockade, with the movement of people and goods highly restricted, particularly from the West Bank, counter to Israel’s commitment, under the Oslo Accords, to recognize the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as a ‘single territorial unit.’ East Jerusalem – which traditionally served as the focus of political, commercial, religious and cultural life for the entire Palestinian population of the oPt – is increasingly separated from the remainder of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as a result of policies and practices adopted by Israel following its unilateral annexation in 1967. The remainder of the West Bank is further subdivided by a complex system of physical and bureaucratic restrictions, centred round Palestinian inability to build or to develop land and water resources, particularly in Area C, and the continuing expansion of settlements.

The Way Forward

The civilian population in the oPt has suffered several decades of conflict and occupation, which has had serious and negative impact upon all aspects of their lives. Many of the humanitarian concerns outlined in this report relate directly to a failure, on all sides, to respect international law and ensure that civilians are protected and respected. The situation has been further exacerbated by lack of accountability and a pervasive culture of impunity, which has allowed violence and confiscation of land and resources to continue unabated. These trends must be reversed. The Palestinian population has the ability and the resilience to recover from years of conflict and occupation with continued international support in a relatively short period of time, provided that their rights were fully respected and their ability to sustain their livelihoods supported. Improved respect for international law would go a long way to address most of the root causes that give rise to humanitarian vulnerability and dependency in the oPt, facilitating recovery and enabling the population to rebuild their lives pending a more durable solution. The objective of this report is to contribute to that aim by highlighting the main humanitarian concerns and their root causes, and by suggesting a way forward.

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