Question of Palestine home
30 September 1988
Agenda item 76
UNITED NATIONS RELIEF AND WORKS AGENCY FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES
IN THE NEAR EAST
Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip
Report of the Secretary-General
1. The present report is submitted to the General Assembly in pursuance of its resolution 42/69 E of 2 December 1987, in which the Assembly reiterated its demand that Israel should desist from the removal and resettlement of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip and from the destruction of their shelters, and requested the Secretary-General, after consulting with the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to report to it, before the opening of its forty-third session, on Israel's compliance with the resolution.
2. On 20 January 1988, the Secretary-General addressed a note verbal to the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, in which he drew attention to his reporting responsibility under the resolution and requested the Permanent Representative to inform him of any steps his Government had taken or envisaged taking in implementation of the relevant provisions of the resolution.
3. In a note verbal dated 7 July 1988, the Permanent Representative of Israel replied as follows:
"Israel's position on this resolution has been set out in successive annual replies submitted to the Secretary-General in recent years. The report of the Secretary-General (A/42/507)
dated 28 August 1987 contained the latest of these replies. In addition, Israel's representative to the Special Political Committee reiterated Israel's position during his statement on 20 October 1987 (A/SPC/42/SR.10).
"This resolution is distorted, unbalanced and inaccurate and its sponsors intentionally ignore the improved living conditions in the Gaza District since 1967. Resolution 42/69 E does not mention the considerable increase of pupils attending school in the Gaza District since 1967, nor does it mention the significant drop in the illiteracy rate among inhabitants in the Gaza District since 1967. Furthermore, it does not mention the extensive development of medical care or the improvement of environmental services - including water supply, sewage and refuse disposal. By conveniently omitting these facts, the sponsors of resolution 42/69 E continue in their attempt to perpetuate the refugee problem and the refugees' living conditions in Gaza. Notwithstanding this, Israel will continue to undertake and encourage assistance and rehabilitation projects for refugees. Israel will welcome all assistance on behalf of the international community intended to improve the refugees' living conditions.
"Indeed, since 1967 Israel has initiated community development projects in the Gaza District, enabling over 10,000 families to leave refugee camps and relocate to new residential areas. These projects, part of the voluntary Refugee Rehabilitation Program, are becoming increasingly popular among the refugees because they materially improve their living conditions. Israel's positive role in initiating these housing projects has been recognized by both the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner of UNRWA in their respective reports (A/40/613 and A/40/13)."
4. The following information concerning Israel's compliance with General Assembly resolution 42/69 E is based on reports from the Commissioner-General of UNRWA.
5. In the reporting period, the Israeli authorities demolished 25 shelter rooms affecting 13 refugee families comprising 67 persons. Some rooms were constructed by the refugee families concerned and others by the Agency. The particulars are as follows:
(a) On 28 October 1987, three Agency shelter rooms and four private rooms at Maghazi Camp, Block C/2-108, occupied by five families comprising 15 persons, were demolished as a punitive action;
(b) On 29 May 1988, two Agency shelter rooms, in Rafah camp, Block M/128, occupied by two families comprising eight persons, were demolished as a punitive action;
(c) On 31 May 1988, a house of eight rooms (privately built) at Khan Younis (Al Amal Quarter) No. 52/116 occupied by one refugee family comprising 12 persons, was demolished as a punitive action;
(d) On 9 June 1988, two privately-built rooms outside Deir Balah Camp occupied by one refugee family comprising 14 persons, were demolished as a punitive action;
(e) On 9 June 1988, five privately-built rooms at Khan Younis Camp (Khusa'a Quarter) No. 4/32 occupied by three refugee families comprising 12 persons were demolished as a punitive action;
(f) On 26 June 1988, one privately-built room at Bureij Camp, Block 7/51 occupied by one refugee family comprising six persons was demolished as a punitive action.
6. The Agency is following up with the Israeli authorities the rehousing of refugees who remain affected by the demolitions in 1971 in the Gaza Strip. Paragraph 6 of last year's report (A/42/507) referred to the status of 87 families categorized as living in hardship conditions. The situation on 30 June 1987 remains the same: Of these 87 families, 14 continue to live in conditions of hardship, 18 remain unsatisfactorily housed, 37 were satisfactorily housed and 18 had previously purchased houses in projects sponsored by the Israeli authorities. The situation of the 14 families living in conditions of hardship has been checked several times during the reporting period. Despite repeated assurances by the Israeli authorities that they would be rehoused, very little progress has been made. The authorities have assured the Agency that a solution has been developed and will be implemented as soon as possible.
7. During the reporting period, the Commissioner-General received the following information relating to refugee shelters demolished by the Israeli authorities on the grounds that they had been built without proper authority on State land outside camp boundaries:
(a) In paragraph 7 (a) of last year's report (A/42/507), it was stated that the Israeli authorities had told several families living on the northern perimeter of Jabalia Camp to remove some of their shelter extensions and that these families had taken the matter to the High Court of Israel, which had ruled against them. No demolitions have taken place so far, although the shelters have been isolated by bulldozing of sand around their premises. The Israeli authorities are understood to have had discussions with some members of this group;
(b) Of the 35 families whose shelters on the perimeter of Beach Camp were demolished in 1983 (see A/41/564, para. 7 (b)), 17 have received plots of land at Sheikh Radwan or the Beit Lahiya housing projects. Of the remaining 18 families, three have left the Beach Camp area, one has bought a piece of land outside the projects, and one has moved in with relatives. Thirteen families are living in temporary shelters built by themselves on or near the same site. The Israeli authorities have stated that they would be willing to consider allocating land in a housing project for the families who had not been rehoused, but that it would not be at Sheikh Radwan, which is the project nearest the site.
8. Paragraph 8 of last year's report (A/42/507) referred to some refugee families in Block Q of the Rafah camp who, at the instance of the Israeli authorities, had agreed to relocate to the Tel-es-Sultan housing project. At as 30 June 1988, most of the families concerned had been allocated plots of land, but pending construction thereon, they remain in their shelters, which are isolated by the bulldozing of sand around them. A few have refused the allocation and have sought larger plots because of the size of their families.
9. In addition, according to information available to the Commissioner-General, 180 plots of land in housing projects were allocated by the Israeli authorities in the year under review. In this period, 164 refugee families, comprising 1051 persons, moved to 86 plots of land in housing projects, having accepted demolition of their shelters in the camps as a prior condition. A further two refugee families, comprising 11 persons, moved to one plot of land without demolition. In addition, nine refugee families, comprising 62 persons, moved to nine completed housing units consisting of 28 rooms prior to the demolition of their shelters, and another 11 refugee families, comprising 63 persons living outside the camps, moved to 11 completed housing units consisting of 37 rooms. During this period, a total of 280 shelter rooms were demolished, of which 141 were built by the Agency, two were built with Agency assistance and 137 were built without such assistance.
10. As the figures in the previous paragraph show, although there have been a few exceptions, the practice of requiring refugee families to demolish their shelters as a pre-condition of moving to new housing continued during the reporting period. The Agency has objected to this practice not only because of practical complications in cases of extended families who share the same shelter where one family wishes to move, but another, usually the older, wants to remain, but also because of the overcrowded conditions and urgent need for accommodation for refugee families.
11. The Israeli authorities, according to information available to the Commissioner- General, have to date allocated a total of approximately 3,914 plots of land in the Gaza Strip for housing projects. A total of 2,583 plots have been built on by 3,653 refugee families comprising 22,732 persons, buildings on 257 plots are under construction, 937 plots are still vacant and 137 have been built on by non-refugee families. In addition, 3,034 refugee families consisting of 18,823 persons have moved into 2,666 completed housing units consisting of 5,893 rooms.
12. Refugee families are continuing to purchase plots of land at subsidized rates for the construction of houses in the projects developed by the Israeli authorities in the Beit Lahiya, Nazleh and Tel-es-Sultan areas. The construction of multi-story apartment blocks in Sheikh Radwan, sponsored by Israeli authorities and offered for sale upon completion, as reported last year (A/42/507, para. 12), continues.