Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Occupied Palestinian Territory

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 29 April 2013
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Occupied Palestinian Territory, 29 April 2013, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
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.
Number of IDPsAbout 144,500
Percentage of total populationAbout 3.3%
Start of displacement situation1967
Peak number of IDPs (year)250,000 (2009)
New displacement in 201212,000 reported
Causes of displacement✓ International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
✓ Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
✓ Criminal violence
✓ Political violence
Human development index110

As of the end of 2012, there were about 144,500 people in protracted displacement across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), some of them since 1967. Internal displacement is both a consequence and a cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In November Israel launched its largest military offensive in nearly four years in Gaza, an operation that left 103 civilians, including 33 children dead, and at least 1,400 people injured. Some 12,000 Palestinians were temporarily displaced, but the majority returned home quickly as the hostilities ceased. More than 380 homes were destroyed, however, leaving nearly 2,500 people still living in displacement. Palestinian armed groups' indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets into Israel caused the death of four Israeli civilians and led to the temporary displacement of hundreds more.

The latest round of destruction in Gaza compounded pre-existing humanitarian needs the result of Israel's previous military operation in 2008 and five years of extensive restrictions on the movement of people and goods in, out and within the territory. According to UNRWA, the Gazan economy is kept afloat by external funding and the black market in goods smuggled through tunnels, leaving inhabitants worse off than they were in the 1990s. UNRWA's Gaza 2020 report questions whether the territory will be a viable place to live at all by that year. It also highlights the degree of suffering Gazans experience as a result of various forms of violence and a lack of access to basic services and housing, a situation which fuels social tension and extremism.

Despite Israel easing its blockade for non-military goods in 2010, most materials essential to construction remain on its "dual use" list. Such items can only officially enter Gaza as part of international projects. Bureaucratic procedures and limited capacity at official crossings also make their importation expensive and time-consuming. As a result, more than 8,000 people remain displaced following Israel's 2008 military operation, and a third of the houses that were damaged or destroyed still need to be rebuilt. A further 71,000 units are needed to meet current housing needs as a result of natural population growth in the territory.

In the West Bank, 4,102 people have been forced into displacement since 2009 as a result of the demolition of homes, forced evictions and Israel's expropriation of land for settlements and military training. The figure for 2012 alone was 886, of whom more than half are children. East Jerusalem is particularly affected. Displaced families suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders, with children missing school, high levels of domestic violence and loss of livelihoods.

Current planning laws leave little room for Palestinians to expand their communities, as 70 per cent of land in Area C of the West Bank has been allocated for Israeli military purposes or settlements. Of the remaining third, only one per cent is available for Palestinian development in practice, and much of that is already built upon.

The Bedouin and herding communities in Area C were the most vulnerable groups in 2012. Those in the Jerusalem periphery, Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills are particularly affected as the majority live on what Israel has declared "state land". They face the constant risk of forced displacement and even forcible population transfer, which is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions if carried out without due process.

In 2012, the 2,300 Bedouins in the Jerusalem periphery were repeatedly threatened with forced eviction following Israel's announcement that it intended to build more than 3,000 settlement units as part of its E1 plan. Israel has been engaged in an ongoing settlement project since 1967, contrary to international humanitarian law (IHL), which prohibits an occupying power from transferring settlers to territory it has annexed. The establishment of new settlements continued to increase in 2012, and it is now estimated that there are nearly 500,000 settlers in the oPt, of whom 196,000 live in East Jerusalem.

The UN has repeatedly reminded Israel of its responsibility as an occupying power under IHL and international human rights law to guarantee the welfare of the Palestinians and the territorial integrity of the oPt. Given its failure to respect such provisions, the humanitarian community continues to play an important role in mitigating the level of displacement in the oPt.

In 2007, local and international NGOs and UN agencies formed a displacement working group to coordinate their response. Israeli policies and practices, however, continue to hamper such efforts and prevent Palestinians from developing their infrastructure.

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