Sunday, April 12, 2015

2014 deadliest year for Palestinians

The number of Palestinians killed in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was the highest since 1967, UN report says

With so many hot points currently raging in the Middle East, each day creating more casualties and refugees and requiring ever more generosity from the coffers of the international community for humanitarian needs, what does the future hold for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories?

According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) titled “Fragmented Lives,” Palestinian civilians continue to be subject to threats to their life, physical safety and liberty. Last year witnessed the highest civilian death toll since 1967.

Humanitarian needs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are driven by practices related to Israel’s prolonged occupation and recurrent escalations of armed conflict, OCHA says in its 2014 Annual Humanitarian Overview released on March 26.

“2014 was a devastating year for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” said James Rawley, Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In Gaza, 1.8 million people experienced an escalation of hostilities, which resulted in over 1,500 Palestinian civilian fatalities, including more than 550 children, and left some 100,000 residents without a home. On the Israeli side, five civilians, including a child, as well as a security guard were killed. Serious concerns were raised over the conduct of hostilities of both Israeli forces and armed Palestinian actors. Reconstruction in Gaza has 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.

“In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he added, “conflict-related casualties increased, 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.”

According to the OCHA report, movement and access restrictions continued to fragment the occupied territory, undermining Palestinians’ livelihoods and impeding their access to basic services.
“Continued occupation undermines the ability of Palestinians to live normal lives. Were these factors removed and related policies changed, international humanitarian assistance would not be necessary here,” Rawley concluded.

The violence spiked during the second half of 2014, due to the 51-day Israeli offensive on Gaza between July 7 and August 26 -- the deadliest escalation in hostilities since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.

Overall, some 4,000,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remain under an Israeli military occupation that prevents them from exercising many of their basic human rights.

The barrier in Abu Dis (OCHA)
This is the fourth year in which OCHA has detailed the key humanitarian concerns in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The purpose of the report is to provide a comprehensive overview of the underlying causes or drivers of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a given year.

The concerns outlined in the Humanitarian Overview reflect the advocacy priorities identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), the main humanitarian coordinating body for UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In 2014, these priorities remain: Accountability; Life, Liberty and Security; Forced Displacement; Movement and Access; and Humanitarian Space.

The Overview is structured around these priorities, with the issue of accountability addressed throughout. Each section contains a calendar of the main developments in 2014 and a Way Forward, which details the main steps required to rectify policies and practices inconsistent with international law and reduce humanitarian vulnerability.

As with all OCHA reports, the Humanitarian Overview is based on data collated and cross-checked from multiple sources that include OCHA, other UN agencies, international NGOs, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and, where relevant, government sources.

The overall situation described in the report is a protection-based crisis, with negative humanitarian ramifications. This crisis stems from the prolonged occupation and recurrent hostilities, alongside a system of policies that undermine the ability of Palestinians to live normal, self-sustaining lives and realize the full spectrum of their rights, including the right to self-determination.

Were these factors removed, Palestinians would be able to develop their government institutions and economy without the need for humanitarian assistance.

To achieve progress in this regard, a range of actions is required by all relevant parties, particularly the following:

-- Israel, the occupying power, must fulfill its primary obligations to protect the Palestinian civilian population, and ensure that people’s basic needs and human rights are met. This would include taking action to secure the physical protection of Palestinian civilians, cease their displacement, ensure accountability for violence and abuse, and lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, as well as on access to land and resources.

-- All parties to the conflict, including armed groups, must fulfill their legal obligations to conduct hostilities in accordance with international law to ensure the protection of all civilians during hostilities and to ensure accountability for acts committed in contravention of the laws of armed conflict.

-- Third states share responsibility for ensuring respect for international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and for promoting compliance with human rights obligations, and should take all necessary actions stemming from that responsibility.