Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – The year 2014 claimed more Palestinian civilian lives than any year since the 1967 war, the United Nations has said in a report, with a senior member of the agency dubbing it a “devastating year” for the occupied territories.
The annual Humanitarian Overview, released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Thursday, said the crisis affecting Palestinians’ lives, liberties, security movement and access stemmed from the “prolonged [Israeli] occupation…, alongside a system of policies that undermine the ability of Palestinians to live normal, self-sustaining lives”.
The report, titled “Fragmented Lives” – which is based on data cross-referenced with other UN agencies, as well as government sources, international, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs – said that if these factors were removed, Palestinians would be self-sufficient and capable of developing their own institutions and economy without the need for any humanitarian assistance.
“2014 was a devastating year for Palestinians in the [occupied territories]” said James Rawley, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the territories.
“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.”
Fifty-eight Palestinians were killed in the West Bank last year – the highest number of Palestinian fatalities in incidents involving Israeli forces since 2007.
More than 6,000 were injured, the report said, dubbing it the highest number of Palestinian injuries since 2005, when the OCHA began collecting data.
. Continued occupation undermines the ability of Palestinians to live normal lives. “]
“A record number of 1,215 Palestinians were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli authorities,” Rawley added.
“Settlement and settler activity continued, in contravention of international law, and contributed to humanitarian vulnerability of affected Palestinian communities.”
Approximately 1,500 civilians (550 of them children) were killed in Gaza during the July-August war. Five Israeli civilians were killed during that time, including a child.
One hundred thousand people in the Gaza Strip are still internally displaced, living in collectives centres, with host families or in makeshift shelters. Some have chosen to stay in their heavily damaged homes.
According to the report’s findings: “In 2014, Gaza witnessed the highest rate of internal displacement since 1967… Almost 500,000 people, 28 percent of the population, were internally displaced.”
Since the summer, reconstruction in Gaza has been slowed, hampered by the Israeli blockade and dwindling funds, the report explained, but highlighted that the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism put into place after last summer’s war has enabled the import of some construction material.
In the West Bank, the number of people displaced in 2014 due to demolitions is the highest recorded in a single year since the OCHA began tracking this indicator in 2008, the report said.
While the number of structures demolished in Area C – the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control – declined last year, there was a 20 percent increase in people displaced, because more residential structures were targeted.
The report called on all parties to exercise constraint and for Israel to take responsibility as an occupying power.
“All parties to the conflict … must fulfil their legal obligations to conduct hostilities in accordance with international law to ensure the protection of all civilians and to ensure accountability for acts committed,” it said.