In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where approximately 818,000 Palestine refugees live, June 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. Protection challenges resulting from the ongoing occupation include, among others: excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces (ISF); military incursions into refugee camps; detention of minors; settlement expansion; movement and access restrictions; forced displacement and the risk of forcible transfer; home demolitions; and settler violence.
In 2017, attacks and clashes in the West Bank claimed the lives of 51 Palestinians (including 14 Palestine refugees, six of whom were minors) and 12 Israelis. A concerning trend is the steadily increased percentage of Palestine refugee injuries in and around Palestine refugee camps attributed to the use of live ammunition by the ISF (live ammunition accounted for 10 per cent of all injuries in 2013, but 41 per cent in 2017). Children are particularly exposed to high levels of violence not only related to the Israeli occupation, but also due to the levels of violence in their homes and communities. Youth, particularly young men, are disproportionately more likely than young women or other age groups to experience violence in the context of occupation. The repeated use of tear gas in the densely populated camps is also a major concern. Medical experts from the Human Rights Center at the School of Law of the University of California, Berkeley have expressed their grave concern regarding the health consequences of such chronic exposure by refugees to the chemicals used in tear gas. This is particularly acute in the 19 Palestine refugee camps home to approximately 246,000 refugees, where the ISF conduct military operations in at least two camps a day.
Palestine refugee communities are affected by demolition orders, confiscation of humanitarian assistance and restrictions on movement. The former is particularly the case in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank: in 2017, Israeli authorities demolished 424 structures, displacing 664 people. Although these figures are significantly lower than those seen in 2016, they are similar to levels seen in 2014 and 2015 figures. This reflects the continuation of the elevated rate of demolitions and displacements throughout the West Bank including East Jerusalem. There are ongoing concerns about the existence of a coercive environment, which is forcing affected Palestine refugees to leave their homes and their land. In addition, women face cultural restrictions on their movement, which are exacerbated by the West Bank Barrier and its associated regime.
In support of the protection of Palestine refugees, UNRWA engages in activities such as community mobilization to support resilience and self-protection, delivery of emergency assistance, vulnerability-focused programming, protection of children and youth, documentation of alleged violations of international law, and advocacy with duty bearers for protection and respect of rights. UNRWA works towards supporting Palestine refugees through service delivery and advocacy to mitigate the consequences as well as addressing the impact of the use of force by security officials and settler violence affecting Palestine refugees.
UNRWA continues to build its capacity to respond to Palestine refugees with protection concerns through the development of a comprehensive approach to protection case management to ensure the safe identification and referral by UNRWA staff for individuals facing protection concerns. UNRWA is also striving to better integrate the protection of Palestine refugees through its service delivery, particularly in the areas of education, health and relief services. These efforts include enhancing the Agency’s accountability to beneficiaries and developing tailored responses and approaches within its service delivery to vulnerable and at-risk groups.
*Last updated: March 2018