The State of Palestine: No end to internal displacement
Child of an evicted family sleeping in makeshift protest tent, opposite their family house in Sheikh Jarah, East Jerusalem, 2010. (Photo: Activestills.org)
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31 December 2012
As of the end of 2012, there were about 144,500 people in protracted displacement across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), some of them since 1967. Internal displacement is both a consequence and a cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In November Israel launched its largest military offensive in nearly four years in Gaza, an operation that left 103 civilians, including 33 children dead, and at least 1,400 people injured. Some 12,000 Palestinians were temporarily displaced, but the majority returned home quickly as the hostilities ceased. More than 380 homes were destroyed, however, leaving nearly 2,500 people still living in displacement. Palestinian armed groups’ indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets into Israel caused the death of four Israeli civilians and led to the temporary displacement of hundreds more.
The latest round of destruction in Gaza compounded pre-existing humanitarian needs - the result of Israel’s previous military operation in 2008 and five years of extensive restrictions on the movement of people and goods in, out and within the territory. According to UNRWA, the Gazan economy is kept afloat by external funding and the black market in goods smuggled through tunnels, leaving inhabitants worse off than they were in the 1990s. UNRWA’s Gaza 2020 report questions whether the territory will be a viable place to live at all by that year. It also highlights the degree of suffering Gazans experience as a result of various forms of violence and a lack of access to basic services and housing, a situation which fuels social tension and extremism.
Despite Israel easing its blockade for non-military goods in 2010, most materials essential to construction remain on its “dual use” list. Such items can only officially enter Gaza as part of international projects. Bureaucratic procedures and limited capacity at official crossings also make their importation expensive and time-consuming. As a result, more than 8,000 people remain displaced following Israel’s 2008 military operation, and a third of the houses that were damaged or destroyed still need to be rebuilt. A further 71,000 units are needed to meet current housing needs as a result of natural population growth in the territory.
In the West Bank, 4,102 people have been forced into displacement since 2009 as a result of the demolition of homes, forced evictions and Israel’s expropriation of land for settlements and military training. The figure for 2012 alone was 886, of whom more than half are children. East Jerusalem is particularly affected. Displaced families suffer from post-traumatic stress
disorders, with children missing school, high levels of domestic violence and loss of livelihoods.
Current planning laws leave little room for Palestinians to expand their communities, as 70 per cent of land in Area C of the West Bank has been allocated for Israeli military purposes or settlements. Of the remaining third, only one per cent is available for Palestinian development in practice, and much of that is already built upon.
The Bedouin and herding communities in Area C were the most vulnerable groups in 2012. Those in the Jerusalem periphery, Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills are particularly affected as the majority live on what Israel has declared “state land”. They face the constant risk of forced displacement and even forcible population transfer, which is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions if carried out without due process.
In 2012, the 2,300 Bedouins in the Jerusalem periphery were repeatedly threatened with forced eviction following Israel’s announcement that it intended to build more than 3,000 settlement units as part of its E1 plan. Israel has been engaged in an ongoing settlement project since 1967, contrary to international humanitarian law (IHL), which prohibits an occupying power from transferring settlers to territory it has annexed. The establishment of new settlements continued to increase in 2012, and it is now estimated that there are nearly 500,000 settlers in the oPt, of whom 196,000 live in East Jerusalem.
The UN has repeatedly reminded Israel of its responsibility as an occupying power under IHL and international human rights law to guarantee the welfare of the Palestinians and the territorial integrity of the oPt. Given its failure to respect such provisions, the humanitarian community continues to play an important role in mitigating the level of displacement in the oPt.
In 2007, local and international NGOs and UN agencies formed a displacement working group to coordinate their response. Israeli policies and practices, however, continue to hamper such efforts and prevent Palestinians from developing their infrastructure.
25 Novembre 2011: CESCR echoes NGO concerns over displacement
Displacement featured prominently in NGO’s contributions to the 47th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on Israel. The NGOs consistently raised concerns over Israel’s forced evictions and displacement of Palestinians and Bedouins in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The main concern is Israel’s “Jerusalem 2020” plan which foresees further settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and its eastern periphery, including through the forcible transfer of nearly 27,000 Bedouins from around the Maale Adumim settlement. About 20 Bedouin communities along the road linking Jerusalem to the Jordan River have received demolition orders for January 2012. The NGOs also raised the threat of displacement of the Bedouins in unrecognised villages near Beersheva in the Negev.
In Gaza, the easing of the blockade heralded by the government had failed to deliver measurable results particularly for reconstruction. Out of more than 6,000 houses destroyed during Israel’s bombardments during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 just over 1,000 had reportedly been repaired. While Hamas has gained popularity as it has managed to smuggle building materials into Gaza, international humanitarian organisations have been unable to get permission to deliver materials to those most in need of them.
The Committee underlined that Israel had not delivered on the findings of its previous session, and questioned it on the displacement issues raised by the NGOs. Its members unequivocally refuted Israel’s established position that it had no responsibility in the OPT under human rights treaties and held no effective control over Gaza, and held it to account for its actions in both Israel and the OPT.
15 July 2010: East Jerusalem demolitions and settlements add to threat of new displacement
Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been displaced as their homes have been demolished, and plans for new settlements have put others at growing risk of displacement. On 3 June, four members of the Palestinian Legislative Council received notice from Israeli police that their residency permits in Jerusalem were being revoked, the first time Israeli authorities have invoked political affiliation as grounds for the removal of residency. On 13 July, the municipality demolished a number of buildings in East Jerusalem, including several homes, forcibly displacing at least 26 people, including 14 children. The previous day the construction of 32 housing units for the settlement of Pisgat Zeev had been approved. According to Haaretznewspaper, some 50,000 new housing units were reported to be in various stages of planning and approval on occupied land in East Jerusalem in March 2010.
Palestinians face ongoing discrimination in having to make way for settlements in East Jerusalem and elsewhere. In July, the city’s legal advisor described a two-year delay by the police in evacuating Israeli settlers from an illegal settlement as “liable to create harsh feelings of discrimination and serious damage to the rule of law”. Revocation of residency permits has increased in the last few years, and new Israeli military orders allow Israeli authorities to forcibly transfer Palestinians within the OPT, in contravention of international law. In June 2010, the Israeli NGO HaMoked obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act which suggested that nearly 35,000 Palestinians could be at risk of being forcibly transferred from West Bank to Gaza under the new military orders.
28 May 2009: Living conditions for IDPs in Gaza deteriorating
Tens of thousands of people displaced within the Gaza Strip since the Israeli offensive of December and January face further deterioration in their living conditions because of the continuing Israeli blockade
. The only entry point
for commercial goods and humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza is controlled by the civilian section of the Israeli Ministry of Defence
, and goods have been held at the crossing for weeks and have often been damaged before they reach the beneficiaries in Gaza.
The ban on commercial items including construction materials and spare parts has brought reconstruction
of homes and infrastructure to a halt. UN and other humanitarian agencies have called for full access
and an end to the embargo so that the recovery and reconstruction efforts can proceed.
The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has a long history of displacement, both as a cause and consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict over land and resources. Forced displacement has consistently followed Israeli policies intended to acquire land, redefine demographic boundaries and divest Palestinians of ownership guaranteed under international law. In other cases, internal displacement has directly resulted from violence stemming from incursions and human rights violations.
More than 160,000 people are reported to have been internally displaced over the past four decades. Since the second intifada or uprising in 2000, the number of Palestinians displaced or at risk of displacement has risen sharply. Some 90,000 people are currently reported to be at risk of displacement as a result of Israeli policies such as restrictive and discriminatory planning, the revocation of residency rights, the expansion of settlements and the construction of the West Bank Separation Wall.(...)
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5 July 2011
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","Background","Methodology","Causes","Peace Process","Applied Law"
"Population Figures and Profile","Global Figures & Profile"
"Patterns of Displacement","General Patterns","House Demolitions & Displacement","Separation Wall","Settlements & Displacement","East Jerusalem","Military Incursions & Strategy","Closures and Displacement"
"Physical Security & Freedom of Movement","Physical Security","Freedom of Movement","Child Protection"
"Subsistence Needs","Socio Economic Situation","Access to Health","Access to Land","Access to Water"
"Issues of Self-Reliance and Public Participation","Coping Strategies & Strategies of Prevention"
"Documentation Needs and Citizenship","General Documentation Needs and Subsistence"
"Property Issues","General Property Issues"
"Patterns of Return and Resettlement","General Pattern of Return and Resettlement"
"Humanitarian Access","General Humanitarian Access"
"National and International Responses","National and International Response to Displacement & Recommendations"
Previous Profile updates
Displacement in the OPT, 2011
Al Nu'man, West Bank, OPT, December 2010
East Jerusalem, OPT, December 2010
Gaza Buffer Zone, OPT, December 2010
Khirbet Yarza, Jordan Valley, OPT, November 2010
Rafah, Gaza Strip, OPT, December 2010
Internal displacement in the OPT: Displacement by the Wall
OPT: House Demolitions in the West Bank