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Source: United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the OPT
16 August 2012

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Maxwell Gaylard, expresses serious concern
regarding the humanitarian situation in southern Hebron Hills
Jerusalem, 16 August 2012

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Maxwell Gaylard, led a visit of representatives of the international humanitarian community today to Jinba in the southern Hebron Hills. Almost 1,000 people living in this and seven other nearby communities are at risk of forced displacement due to the designation of the area by the Israeli authorities as a “firing zone” for military training.

Mr Gaylard, together with representatives of humanitarian donor countries, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, expressed serious concern regarding the dire humanitarian situation faced by residents of the area. “These are already some of the most vulnerable families in the West Bank – forcibly displacing them from their homes and lands would have a serious immediate and long-term impact on their physical, socio-economic and emotional welfare” said Mr Gaylard.

Approximately 18 percent of the West Bank has been designated by the Israeli authorities as “firing zones”. Most of these are located in Area C, over which Israel retains full control of security and planning. Some 5,000 Palestinians, mostly Bedouin and herders, live in localities now designated as firing zones and many face serious restrictions on their freedom of movement, on their access to basic services including health and education, and are also subject to settler violence and harassment by soldiers. Since 2010, over 800 Palestinian civilians have been displaced from these areas by demolitions of their homes and property. Humanitarian organizations have also faced serious difficulties in providing humanitarian assistance to these communities, with relief items confiscated and demolition orders issued against humanitarian donor-funded structures such as the school in Jinba.

The humanitarian community reiterates its call to the Government of Israel to immediately halt demolitions of Palestinian homes and property and to establish a fair and equitable zoning and planning system. Israel, as an Occupying Power, has an obligation under international law to protect Palestinian civilians and to administer the territory in a manner that ensures their welfare and basic needs. The destruction of private property is prohibited, except where rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Forced displacement of civilians is also prohibited except if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.

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