Amid a surge in hostilities and an ongoing blockade, 2014 was a traumatic year for millions of people living in the occupied Palestinian territory, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said today, as the Organization released its latest report on the situation on the ground.
“Continued occupation undermines the ability of Palestinians to live normal lives,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the territory, James Rawley, said in conjunction with the release of the 2014 Annual Humanitarian Overview by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Were these factors removed and related policies changed, international humanitarian assistance would not be necessary here,” he added, while acknowledging that last year had been a “devastating” one for Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.
The OCHA report, entitled Fragmented Lives, recalls that 1.8 million people in Gaza experienced an escalation in hostilities during the 2014 conflict between Gaza-based Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, resulting in over 1,500 Palestinian civilian fatalities, including more than 550 children, and leaving some 100,000 residents without a home. In addition, five Israeli civilians, including a child, as well as a security guard were killed.
Moreover, it adds, reconstruction efforts in Gaza following the 51-day conflict have been slow, hampered by the continued blockade and the lack of funding, although the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism has enabled the import of construction material.
The ongoing crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory has been overwhelming relief efforts in recent months. Just last month, Mr. Rawley presented OCHA’s 2015 Strategic Response Plan in an effort to raise $705 million required to help the millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with their sharply increasing humanitarian needs.
But, he warned, there were also many lingering difficulties. A lack of donor support for the Plan would result in the continued displacement of over 22,000 families while up to 1.6 million people across the occupied Palestinian territory would be deprived of adequate water and sanitation services, and food assistance. Access to basic healthcare and education would also be compromised.
In today’s press release, Mr. Rawley added that the problems for the occupied Palestinian territory were not only isolated to Gaza, where the ongoing blockade had placed a stranglehold on the enclave’s economy and restricted movement for its residents, but also spilled over into the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
“A record number of 1,215 Palestinians were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli authorities, while settlement and settler activity continued, in contravention of international law, and contributed to humanitarian vulnerability of affected Palestinian communities,” he noted.
In 2014, according to OCHA figures, the Israeli authorities destroyed 590 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C [over 60 per cent of the West Bank where Israel retains control over security, planning and building] and East Jerusalem causing the highest level of displacement in the West Bank since the Office began systematically monitoring the issue in 2008.
The UN has also noted that planning policies applied by Israel in Area C and East Jerusalem continue to discriminate against Palestinians, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain building permits.
Nevertheless, despite describing a grim outlook for the occupied Palestinian territory, the OCHA report also suggests a range of actions that would help achieve progress on the ground, including Israel fulfilling its “primary obligations to protect the Palestinian civilian population” and the fulfilment by all parties to the conflict of their legal obligations to conduct hostilities in accordance with international law.