Geneva, June 15, 2021.- The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices* notes with deep concern the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza – as a result of the recent escalation in violence, the decades-long Israeli occupation, and Israeli policies and practices.
For the second year in a row, the Committee was unable to conduct annual briefings with Member States in Geneva and undertake their annual mission to the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As an alternative measure, the Committee organised a series of virtual meetings with UN agencies, Palestinian ministries and institutions and civil society organisations. The Committee also sent requests for written submissions, including to Member States.
During their meetings with interlocutors, the Committee heard about the impact of the May 2021 escalation on Palestinians civilians in Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem. The Committee received briefings from human rights organisations which documented the killing of 256 Palestinians in Gaza including 66 children, the wounding of 1,291 people and the displacement of more than 60,000 as a result of Israeli attacks. The Committee is particularly concerned with information received on the damage to healthcare facilities in Gaza, noting that 38 health facilities were affected in 40 different incidents.
The Committee notes with concern the impact of the recent escalation on Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem, many of whom have already been displaced several times and face additional displacement now as a result of the recent escalation.
The Committee heard about the troubling situation in the West Bank where freedom of expression and peaceful association are continuously being curtailed by Israeli Security Forces.
Information provided by UN agencies indicates that clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians have risen, with a documented 50 percent increase in Israeli security operations in the West Bank this year, many of which resulted in injuries and loss of life.
It also heard about the extremely dire situation in East Jerusalem where numerous Palestinian families continue to be threatened with evictions by Israeli authorities and settlers including in the neighbourhoods of Batn Al-Hawa and Silwan. It received worrying information about the recent wave of arrests of journalists and activists particularly those supporting and covering events around the possible eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. The committee noted with concern information it received indicating that the Israeli judiciary supports in the majority of cases claims for ownership by settlers at the expense of Palestinians.
The Committee notes its concern with the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the continued demolitions of homes even during the height of the pandemic, and the risk of eviction of Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods. Incidents of settler violence also appear to be on the rise, with strong evidence that Israel is not complying with its obligations under international law to protect the Palestinian population and many times actually cooperate with and provide protection to the settlers instead.
The Committee heard about specific concerns with regard to access to health for Palestinians, including prisoners, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Gaza, movement and exit restrictions related to COVID-19, the recent escalation which reportedly destroyed a number of health facilities and the long-standing permit requirement in order to travel for hospital referrals, continued to impede Palestinians’ access to healthcare. The Committee notes with concern the impact of the recent military escalation on the health infrastructure in Gaza, which was already heavily overstretched due to COVID-19.
The Committee notes with heightened concern the ongoing lack of accountability on allegations for human rights violations by the Israeli Security Forces and settlers, which further aggravated the cycle of violence.
The Committee will dedicate part of their upcoming report to the General Assembly on the issue of right to health, presenting its next report during the General Assembly’ s 76th session in November 2021.
In this context of increased Israeli discriminatory practices against the Palestinians, and in order to cease the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Palestinians, members of the Committee stress the importance of the peace process and the two-State solution.