Israel’s occupation in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza are the primary cause for Palestinian “humanitarian needs,” according to a UN report released Wednesday.
Published in English, Hebrew and Arabic by the Palestinian branch of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the report — titled “Fragmented Lives” — bills itself as a “comprehensive overview of the underlying causes or drivers of the humanitarian vulnerabilities in the oPt [occupied Palestinian territory].”
The major cause, the report concludes, is Israel, with occupation policies and practices remaining the key reason for humanitarian needs in the Palestinian territories.
“At its heart, the crisis in the oPt is one of a lack of protection for Palestinian civilians,” said OCHA oPt head David Carden.
“From violence, from displacement, from restrictions on access to services and livelihoods, and from other rights violations – with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable, children in particular. While the trends vary from one year to the next, the pervasive lack of protection and accountability for violations of international law remains,” Carden said.
There was no immediate Israeli response to the report, which was released on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, when Israeli government offices are closed.
According to the report, the number of West Bank Palestinians displaced by Israeli home demolitions in 2016 was at a record high. It said the 1,094 demolished structures left 1,601 Palestinians, including 759 children, internally displaced. OCHA said that last calendar year saw the highest number of demolitions in the West Bank since the UN body began documenting the practice in 2009.
Last year, Israeli authorities destroyed or seized 300 structures donor-funded structures in the West Bank, at a cost of some $730,000, the report said.
During 2016, OCHA said it documented 572 “restrictions on Palestinian movement,” as well as an additional 110 obstacles placed on Arab residents within the city of Hebron.
The report goes on to warn that the decade-long blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt is leaving the coastal enclave “especially vulnerable.”
OCHA charged that Israeli authorities denied 31% of entry and exit visas for aid workers in Gaza, while Egypt is “exacerbating” the Strip’s isolation by opening its border crossing for only 44 days last year.
The UN body said the blockade coupled with Hamas restrictions in the Strip were making humanitarian aid work difficult.
In 2016, OCHA said Israel denied 31% of visa applications for aid workers in Gaza. Humanitarian initiatives in the territory were “also impeded by restrictions imposed by the Hamas authorities, as well as by donor-imposed prohibitions on contact with them.”
The report noted that the Palestinian political divide is “also a serious contributing factor” to the humanitarian situation.
“Nearly a decade of blockade, internal divide and recurring conflict, alongside a lack of action to adopt measures that would resolve chronic needs, has left the Gaza Strip especially vulnerable,” Carden warned.
The report also noted that Palestinian fatalities from conflict-related violence in the West Bank and Israel declined significantly last year. OCHA said 2016 saw 37% drop in fatalities from conflict-related violence with 107 deaths recorded in 2916 compared to 169 in 2015. During that time, the number of Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli forces decreased 89%, from 3,247 to 15,477.
It said Israeli fatalities from conflict-related violence dropped 48% in 2016.