Israel main cause of Palestinian suffering, UN says

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which will exceed the 50-year mark in June, is “the main cause” of Palestinian humanitarian needs, the United Nations has affirmed. “The occupation denies Palestinians control over basic aspects of daily life, whether they live in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” according to a report released Wednesday by the UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA.
“At its heart, the crisis in the [occupied Palestinian territories] is one of a lack of protection for Palestinian civilians – from violence, from displacement, from restrictions on access to services and livelihoods, and from other rights violations – with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable, children in particular,” OCHA head David Carden said. That crisis is particularly acute right now in the Gaza Strip, where a lack of electricity, on top of a 10-year Israeli blockade and successive military assaults, has brought the territory to the brink of collapse. Palestinians saw in 2016 the highest number of Israeli demolitions of homes and other structures since the UN began keeping records in 2009. The number of donor-funded structures demolished was also unprecedented, nearly tripling from the previous year. A total of 1,601 people were displaced due to all demolitions, about half of them children. The majority lost their homes on the pretext that they were constructed without building permits from Israeli occupation authorities that are next to impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
Israel’s demolitions create “a coercive environment” leading to forced displacement and “forcible transfer,” the UN states. Meanwhile, reconstruction in Gaza continues to face major impediments. By the end of 2016, only 22 percent of homes destroyed during Israel’s 2014 military assault that left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead had been rebuilt. Nine thousand families – more than 47,000 people – remain displaced. The UN says the quantity of cement allowed into Gaza is far short of the need, resulting in the ongoing suffering of these families. Palestinians and international law experts have previously accused UN agencies of complicity in Israel’s illegal blockade, by participating in the so-called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, through which Israel severely restricts the import of construction supplies. Israel is also increasingly denying Palestinian employees with the UN and other aid organizations permission to enter Gaza. Almost a third of applicants were denied in 2016, up from just 4 percent the year before.
The report also notes that Israeli authorities have failed to take any steps towards accountability for civilian deaths in Gaza three years on from the 2014 offensive: “Impunity denies victims and survivors the justice and redress they deserve, and prevents the deterrence of future violations.”

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