This publication brings together a series of factsheets that were published by OCHA over the course of the past five years, highlighting different issues of humanitarian concern in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The facts and figures have been reviewed and updated for this compilation, which comes on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the start of Israel’s military occupation.
The occupation is a key driver of humanitarian needs, to which the international community responds. Occupation denies Palestinians control over basic aspects of their daily life and largely determines their ability to move unimpeded within the occupied territory, exit and return, develop large parts of their territory, build on their own land, access natural resources or develop their economy. Some of the restrictions behind these realities have been imposed in response to Palestinian attacks or citing security justifications.
Although occupation is intended to be temporary, Israel increasingly treats parts of the occupied area as its own sovereign territory, seizing lands, intensively exploiting natural resources, establishing permanent communities and altering the demographic composition. These measures have increasingly fragmented the Palestinian territory, isolating communities, rupturing social cohesion, affecting economic activity and depriving Palestinians of many of their human rights.
Under international law, Israel is required to protect the Palestinian population under its control and provide for its welfare and well-being; it must also respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of this population. As affirmed by various authoritative international institutions, from the International Court of Justice to the Security Council, transferring parts of a State’s own civilian population to an occupied territory, unilaterally annexing territory acquired by force, and destroying homes and other property without a legitimate military reason, among other practices, are acts that contravene international law.
In large areas of the West Bank, occupation-related laws, policies and practices have generated pressures on residents, which place them at risk of forcible transfer. Key to this is a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime in Area C and East Jerusalem, which makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, resulting in the demolition, or threat of demolition, of homes, schools and other structures.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel’s 10-year-long land, air and sea blockade, imposed following the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas, isolates 2 million Palestinians from the West Bank and the rest of the world.1 The access restrictions, imposed by Israel again citing security justifications, and recurrent rounds of active hostilities, have devastated Gaza’s economy, resulting in more than 40% unemployment, poor access to basic services and aid dependency.
The internal political divide between the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 2007, resulted in a split of the Palestinian civil service and increased the hardships for Gaza’s population. A salaries crisis, ongoing since 2014, along with the underfunding of the Gaza-based ministries, the duplication of functions and the lack of clear reporting lines, has undermined the capacity of local institutions to deliver basic services, respond to emergencies and many other key functions.
Recent measures adopted by the Palestinian Authority have increased electricity blackouts to up to 20 hours a day and impacted the availability of essential services and livelihoods, resulting in a further serious deterioration in living conditions.
Prolonged occupation compounds humanitarian needs and hampers their alleviation, leaving vulnerable households struggling to cope. In 2017, 1.8 million Palestinians are in need of active protection measures provided by the humanitarian community, due to their exposure to conflict and violence, displacement or restricted access to livelihoods and essential services.
The prolonged occupation, with no end in sight, cultivates a sense of hopelessness and frustration that drives continued conflict and impacts both Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians possess the skills and resources necessary, if allowed access, to develop self-sustaining livelihoods. Therefore, a political solution that ends the occupation is the single most important priority to reduce humanitarian needs and advance development goals in the occupied Palestinian territory.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.