West Bank, ALRAY - The United Nations has reported a concerning escalation in violence by Israeli settlers and the obstruction of Palestinians' access to grazing lands, resulting in the displacement of 1,100 Palestinians from 28 residential communities in the occupied West Bank since 2022.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), settler violence has been on the rise across the West Bank over the past few years. During this period, 1,614 incidents related to settlers led to Palestinian casualties and damage to their properties, averaging 80 incidents per month. This marks the highest number ever recorded by the UN since it began monitoring these incidents in 2006.
The displaced Palestinians have relocated to other towns or rural areas deemed safer, with a majority coming from the governorates of Ramallah, Nablus, and Hebron, which host the highest concentration of Israeli settlements.
Since 2022, four entire residential communities have been entirely evacuated and now stand empty, while 50% of the populations in six other communities have been forcibly displaced, according to the UN report.
Approximately 10,000 Palestinians are still residing in the assessed communities, and they, along with others throughout the West Bank, are in urgent need of humanitarian support due to settler violence and the failure of Israeli authorities to hold attackers accountable.
In August 2023, the United Nations and humanitarian partners conducted an assessment of the humanitarian needs in 63 Palestinian grazing communities across the West Bank through interviews with key informants.
According to the UN report, these communities, housing 10,000 people, were selected based on their vulnerability and proximity to settlements, as well as their exposure to settler violence. Approximately 24% of the population in these communities are women, and 51% are children.
The report noted that about 93% of the assessed communities reported an increase in settler violence, with 90% reporting an escalation in violence since the beginning of 2022.
Comparing data with a 2013 UN assessment of 41 communities, the report revealed a 39% decrease in the population size of 24 communities. In these communities, the overall population growth was 10% lower than the expected average for the West Bank. Israeli authorities control the approval of "structural plans" for communities, with the highest population growth recorded in those areas.
The report stated that in 81% of the communities, residents filed complaints with the Israeli police regarding some or all of the settler violence incidents they experienced. However, only 6% of community representatives were aware of any follow-up actions taken by Israeli authorities.
The discriminatory planning regime in Area C has impeded 71% of the communities from constructing new buildings. In all communities, the UN Office documented 59 demolitions carried out by Israeli authorities in 2022 and 2023, resulting in 262 people losing their homes.
The report emphasized that this situation, coupled with Palestinians' difficulty in obtaining building permits, demolition and eviction operations, access restrictions, and continued settlement expansion, creates a coercive environment that contributes to displacement, which could rise to the level of forced transfer and constitute a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The report further affirmed that Palestinian herders require support for their livelihoods, including the provision of food and protection for their livestock. Additionally, they require humanitarian assistance for their basic needs, including shelter, water, education, and healthcare.