1. The present report, the ninth quarterly report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), provides a review and assessment of the implementation of the resolution since my previous report on the subject, which was delivered orally by my Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative on 18 December 2018. The report covers developments from 15 December 2018 to 15 March 2019.
II. Settlement activities
2. In its resolution 2334 (2016), the Security Council reaffirmed that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. In the same resolution, the Council reiterated its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in that regard. No such steps were taken during the reporting period.
3. During the reporting period, Israeli authorities advanced, approved or tendered some 3,150 housing units in Area C of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This figure comprises plans advanced for some 2,500 units and announcements of tenders for about 650 units.
4. Nearly half of the total units promoted are to be built in outlying locations, deep inside the occupied West Bank, including 500 units in the Nablus area and 120 in the Hebron Governorate. One of the plans effectively legalizes the outpost of Ibei HaNahal as a neighbourhood of the Ma’ale Amos settlement in the Hebron Governorate. This is the first such decision in almost five years.
5. On 19 December, the Knesset passed, in a preliminary vote, a bill endorsed by the Government to advance the legalization of some 66 illegal outposts throughout the occupied West Bank within two years of its adoption. The bill would also require Israeli authorities, during the two-year period, to provide the outposts with funding, electricity and other services and to freeze the implementation of demolition orders unless instructed otherwise by the Government.
6. In a separate step, in mid-December, the Israeli Government established a team to fast-track the legalization of outposts and housing units in settlements built illegally according to Israeli law. The move followed an opinion issued by the Attorney General’s office on 13 December that allows the Government to initiate steps to retroactively legalize settlement units built “in good faith”, including on private Palestinian property, which, at the time of construction, was mistakenly believed to be “State land” under Israeli law. Some 2,000 settlement units throughout the occupied West Bank could be retroactively legalized using this mechanism, commonly referred to as the “market regulation” principle.
7. On 3 January, following an order by the Jerusalem District Court, the Israel Defense Forces evacuated dozens of settlers from the site of the former Amona outpost, on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement in the northern occupied West Bank, which was evacuated in February 2017 in compliance with a ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court. On 12 February, Israeli authorities removed and confiscated several mobile homes used as outposts near the settlement of Itamar.
8. During the reporting period, demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures continued across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In all, 133 structures were demolished or seized by Israeli authorities, resulting in the displacement of 252 people, and leaving 20,157 others affected, on the grounds of lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
9. Among the structures demolished were parts of three water connections in Area C, that supplied, or were about to supply, Beyt Dajan and Beyt Furik villages in Nablus (housing approximately 18,000 people), 13 herding communities in the Masafer Yatta area of Hebron (1,200 people), and the Bedouin community of Wadi Abu Hindi now living in Jerusalem (320 people). All of these communities suffer from severe water shortages, especially in the summer. Two of the water connections were funded by international donors as part of humanitarian assistance efforts.
10. In occupied East Jerusalem, on 17 February, following an Israeli court decision, Israeli security forces evicted a Palestinian family from their home in Jerusalem’s Old City and facilitated its handover to Israeli settlers, who had invoked an Israeli law that allows Israelis, but not Palestinians, to claim lands owned prior to 1948. The eviction displaced eight family members, including three children. Another seven families in the Old City are at risk of eviction and, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a total of 200 Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem face similar evictions. In the Sheykh Jarrah neighbourhood, 32 Palestinians are also facing imminent risk of eviction.