Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Occupied Palestinian Territory

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Occupied Palestinian Territory, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsAbout 160,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 4.0%
Start of current displacement situation1967
Peak number of IDPs (Year)250,000 (2009)
New displacementReported 1,100
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, human rights violations
Human development index114

The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has a long history of displacement, which has resulted from the Israeli occupation of this areas and its policies intended to consolidate control over it. Despite international condemnation, the Israeli government's actions to acquire land and redefine demographic boundaries in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and its actions to assert military control over Gaza, have continued to cause forced displacement of Palestinians. Over 160,000 people have been internally displaced over the past four decades.

Since the second intifada or uprising in 2000, the number of Palestinians displaced or facing almost certain displacement has risen sharply. Some 90,000 people were in 2011 reportedly facing displacement as a result of restrictive and discriminatory planning, the revocation of their residency rights, the expansion of settlements and the construction of the West Bank Separation Wall.

As the occupying power, Israel is responsible under international humanitarian and human rights law for the welfare of the Palestinians and the territorial integrity of the OPT. Instead its policies have violated these in favour of the construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 2011, the population of Jewish settlements in the OPT continued to increase, to over 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and almost 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The rate of construction of settlements continued to increase and the incidence of settler violence increased by 50 per cent from 2010.

Israeli authorities continued to demolish Palestinian houses in 2011 on the basis that they lacked building permits in line with Israeli domestic law. During the year, nearly 1,100 people, including over 600 children, were displaced by the demolition of their homes. The number of demolitions rose by 80 per cent from 2010, and they displaced twice the number of people.

According to OCHA, only about one per cent of the West Bank's Area C, which is fully controlled by Israel, is allocated for construction by Palestinians. But these small zones have already largely been built on, and applications for permits by Palestinians have consistently been rejected. Thus people there, whose movement is already drastically restricted, have no means of addressing a growing housing shortage.

70 per cent of Area C has been allocated to Israeli military or civilian purposes, including the building of settlements. The activities of the Israeli authorities there have affected an increasingly large number of people, as they have targeted structures essential to the continued existence of entire communities. In particular they have destroyed 46 wells and water-storage structures, 170 animal shelters, two classrooms and two mosques. Coupled with violence by settlers and movement restrictions, these policies have severely affected the livelihoods of about 4,200 Palestinians.

In East Jerusalem, an area that was illegally annexed by Israel in 1967, displacement continued in 2011 as the authorities continued to work towards securing a Jewish majority of at least 60 per cent according to the "Jerusalem 2000" master plan. Under the plan, 13 per cent of land has been allocated for Palestinian construction and 35 per cent to settlers. Victims of demolitions were even charged the costs of the demolition and security staff, causing numerous Palestinians to end up demolishing their own houses. Finally, according to Israeli law, properties in East Jerusalem whose owners reside in the West Bank may become property of the state, since they are considered to be inside Israeli territory and the owner outside it.

Palestinian communities have no means of participating in planning decisions that directly affect them, and face prohibitively expensive and bureaucratic procedures to object to plans already established. People in Area C of the West Bank have to take any requests to the Civil Administration, which is in a military base inside the settlement of Beit Il, and so embedded among the principal agents of displacement and violence.

In Gaza, people remained displaced and in need of humanitarian support, three years after the Israeli army's "Cast Lead" operation of 2007 and 2008. Over 6,000 houses were completely destroyed or suffered major damage during the operation. At the end of 2011, humanitarian agencies had only been able to rebuild about 1,500 of them. They had not been able to provide shelter to more than 2,900 families whose homes had already been destroyed prior to the operation, or to over 5,600 Palestinian refugee families who were still living in inadequate shelters. After "Cast Lead", ongoing military incursions and air strikes destroyed or damaged over 6,900 more homes in Gaza by 2011. With the population growing, an estimated 75,000 additional homes were needed.

Human rights and humanitarian organisations have long called for displacement in OPT to be addressed and have warned of the continuing impact of Israeli policies. As of 2011, the international community's response remained limited to condemnations which had not been followed by any actions.

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