The Palestinians’ conflict with Israel, including the occupation in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, is the primary cause for Palestinian “humanitarian vulnerabilities,” according to a UN report published Monday.
The fifth annual report on the situation in the “oPt,” UN shorthand for “occupied Palestinian territories,” was published by the Palestinian branch of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Published in English, Hebrew and Arabic, the report, titled “Fragmented Lives,” bills itself as a “comprehensive overview of the underlying causes or drivers of the humanitarian vulnerabilities in the oPt.”
The major cause, the report says, is Israel. “Humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continue to be driven by practices related to Israel’s prolonged occupation and continued conflict.”
“This month, Palestinians enter their 50th year under Israeli occupation,” OCHA’s Palestinian branch head David Carden is quoted as saying. The report “shows clearly the devastating impact of this ongoing situation.”
The report presents other parties, including Palestinian factions such as Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, as well as Egypt’s role in bolstering the blockade of Gaza, as second-tier causes.
Palestinians are suffering most acutely in Gaza, the report states. “The suffering resulting from the 2014 hostilities – with close to 90,000 Palestinians still displaced during the second half of 2015 – was compounded by an eight year blockade by Israel, the almost continuous closure of the Rafah passenger crossing by Egypt, and by internal Palestinian divisions. The precarious living conditions of displaced girls and women raise a range of protection concerns, including increasing exposure to gender-based violence.”
In the West Bank, “fatalities and injuries among West Bank Palestinians by Israeli forces were the highest since OCHA began recording such figures in 2005,” the report says, going on to note that a similar spike was seen in “such casualties among Israelis from attacks by West Bank Palestinians.”
Israeli responses to Palestinian stabbing and other attacks raise “issues related to excessive use of force.”
The report pays special attention to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and to violence by some settlers against Palestinians.
“The longstanding phenomenon of settler violence, compounded by insufficient law enforcement by the Israeli authorities, has also undermined the physical security and livelihoods of Palestinian communities. Documented cases of settler attacks, trespassing and forceful takeover of land, suggest that violence is often being carried out as part of a calculated effort by settlers to push Palestinian farmers from what has subsequently become de facto Israeli-controlled areas. This phenomenon has continued despite the efforts by the Israeli authorities to improve law enforcement against violent settlers.”
According to the report, the number of attacks on Palestinians decreased in 2015, but “the number of Palestinian-owned trees damaged, stolen or uprooted (11,254) in settler-related incidents was the highest since 2006.”
Israel’s crackdown against the terror wave also draws criticism. “By the end of 2015, there were more Palestinians held in Israeli prisons (over 6,000) than any year since 2010 and more Palestinian children held (422) than since 2008.”
The report demands that Israel end the controversial practice of administrative detention without trial for terror suspects, crack down on Jewish violence against Palestinians and end the closure on Gaza, calling it a form of “collective punishment.”
It demands that Hamas “respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, including by ending all attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian objects, including all rocket attacks.”
And it says the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank must institute better criminal justice, allow freedom of expression and assembly and end the death penalty in PA-controlled areas.