Palestine: Country Profile

Gaza Protest - London November 2012 photo Neil Cafferky

Gaza Protest - London November 2012 photo Neil Cafferky

Israeli Military Activities. 1,366 people were killed and 5,380 were injured during The Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009. Over 4,000 homes were completely destroyed and an estimated 75,000 people were displaced. In November 2012 a further military operation killed 158 Palestinians and injured 1,269. In the West Bank the Israeli army continues to conduct night-time raids in Palestinian towns and villages, usually to conduct search and arrest operations. The military has recently been entering houses in villages where there are protests against the settlements or the Wall. Protests are typically suppressed by the Israeli military using tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons containing foul liquid and, on occasion, live ammunition.

Gaza Blockade. Since June 2007 there has been an Israeli military blockade against the export of all goods from the Gaza Strip and the import of anything Israel does not deem ‘humanitarian’. This has closed Gaza’s manufacturing industry and raised unemployment to 40%. Living conditions, infrastructure, public health, water, sanitation and education have all been impacted.  Gaza has chronic shortages of clean water, electricity and fuel, which disrupts basic services and undermines already-vulnerable livelihoods and living conditions.

Displacement: House Demolitions and Forced Evictions. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that approximately 27,000 Palestinian buildings have been demolished since 1967. Disproportionate force is often used in the process, with demolitions and forced evictions carried out by armed Israeli soldiers. Those affected suffer from psychological and emotional trauma as well as economic hardship and the loss of their homes.  A Haldane Society delegation prepared a report on the forced evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem.

Access to Land: Settlements, Seam Zone, The Wall and Access Restricted Area (ARA). 

There are almost 350,000 settlers in the West Bank and 300,000 in East Jerusalem.  Settlements and their associated infrastructure – including checkpoints, roadblocks and settler-only bypass roads –severely restrict Palestinian freedom of movement and fragment the West Bank into enclaves, preventing the possibility of a contiguous territory. This precludes any meaningful exercise of Palestinian self-determination.

The International Court of Justice has ruled that the sections of a Wall constructed by Israel that are not built along the ‘Green Line’ violate Israel’s obligations under international law. The Wall, once completed, will be 709km long and only 15% of it runs along the Green Line. Many Palestinians are caged between the Wall and the Green Line in an area called the “Seam Zone”. The Wall and its associated permit regime cause the violation of many human rights such as freedom of movement, the right to family life, and rights to health, education, and an adequate standard of living.

Israel imposes an Access Restricted Area (ARA) in the Gaza Strip that constitutes around 17% of Gaza’s total land area.  The precise borders, though, are unclear and those entering the area, as reported by Human Rights Watch, are at a high risk of being shot. 

Israel’s systematic land appropriation policy for the construction of the Wall, settlements and infrastructure, and ensuing restrictions on movement and settler violence against the Palestinian population create, unbearable living conditions that make it increasingly difficult for people to live in their homes.

Right to Family Life and the denial of family unification. The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (2003) (Temporary Order) means that Palestinians from the OPT who marry Jerusalem residents or Israeli citizens are not able to live with their spouse or are forced to live together illegally.

Prisoners. Approximately 5,200 Palestinians are still in Israeli custody, mostly inside Israel in violation of the Geneva Conventions.  Defence for Children International report that approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year. The most common charge is for throwing stones.

Refugees: There are five million Palestinians registered as refugees, with nearly 1.5 million living in 58 recognised Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem. Conditions in the camps are generally poor with high population density, cramped living conditions and inadequate