The rise in violence thatbegan in mid-September throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) escalated significantly during October. Widespread protests leading to violent clashes with Israeli forces have been accompanied by almost-daily stabbings or alleged stabbing attempts of Israelis by young Palestinians, most of whom were shot and killed on the spot.
The number of casualties among West Bank Palestinians in October 2015 (69 deaths and 7,392 injuries1) is the highest recorded in a single month since OCHA began monitoring conflict-related casualties in 2005. In the Gaza Strip, casualties in October totaled the largest monthly figure since the end of the 2014 hostilities. Some incidents have generated concerns about the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, including concerns of extra-judicial executions.2
In his briefing to the Security Council on 22 October, the UN Deputy Secretary-General highlighted that the current wave of violence would not have erupted, "if Palestinians did not still live under a stifling and humiliating occupation that has lasted almost half a century". He added, "nowhere is the frustration and anger at the current situation more evident than among the young people." He also remarked that the Palestinian attacks, which in October alone killed eight Israelis and injured over 55 others, have "sharpened a sense of fear amongst the Israeli population", noting that "when confronted with a climate of terror, Israelis rightly expect their authorities to enforce security".
Palestinian frustration is also fuelled by other chronic issues that generate humanitarian vulnerability. Over a year after the end of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, less than ten per cent of the homes that were totally destroyed are under construction. Despite generous pledges by many countries, there is a funding gap for the reconstruction for over three-quarters (9,200 units) of totally destroyed homes. In the meantime, some 95,000 people displaced during the war continue to live in precarious conditions with host families, in rented apartments, prefabricated units, or in the rubble of their previous homes.
On a positive note, in October the Israeli authorities removed a longstanding restriction on the import of gravel to the Gaza Strip, thus facilitating construction activities. However, the remaining import restrictions imposed by Israel in its "dual use" list, as well as the internal Palestinian divide, continue to undermine the delivery of basic services, including the capacity of local institutions to respond to emergencies. This is of particular concern at the onset of winter and the anticipated seasonal flooding and related displacements.
In the West Bank, despite a sharp decline in the number of Palestinian structures demolished in September for lack of a building permit, punitive demolitions targeting the family homes of perpetrators or suspected perpetrators of attacks against Israelis resumed in October. This practice was recently endorsed by the Israeli Security Cabinet, citing the need to deter potential attackers. Punitive demolitions have a devastating impact on families, particularly children, and were recently characterized by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as being "both illegal and counterproductive".
Additional measures approved by the Security Cabinet include the deployment of dozens of roadblocks and checkpoints on many of the main streets leading to and from Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Although a few of these obstacles were removed since then, search and checking procedures at checkpoints have continued to disrupt access by some 140,000 people to services, including educational and health facilities, places of work, and holy sites.
The provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to those most affected by the occupation and violence is essential to alleviate suffering and prevent further deterioration in conditions. In the briefing referred to earlier, UN Deputy Secretary-General emphasized that "the violence is mainly rooted in the absence of a genuine political narrative and horizon... Efforts must be intensified from all quarters to restore Palestinian and Israeli hope that peace is still possible".
1. Conflict-related casualties: includes all casualties that occurred in violent incidents immediately related to the Israeli occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as military operations, search and arrest campaigns, clashes during demonstrations, attacks involving Israeli settlers, etc. These figures exclude other related casualties such as those in the context of access delays, the explosion of unexploded ordnance, reckless handling of weapons, collapse of tunnels, and internal Palestinian violence.
2. Civilians: includes people who, according to the information available at the time of publication, did not fulfill a “continuous combatant function” as part of an organized armed group, regardless of the circumstances of their injury or killing. Figures in this category should not be considered comprehensive, as unconfirmed or disputed cases are excluded.