Palestinian Territories, Occupied

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Persistent violations




The Occupied Palestinian Territories consist of three non-contiguous areas: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The Occupied Palestinian Territories are not an independent State, but operate a limited degree of self government in some parts under the Palestinian Authority, though the election of 2006 saw this divided between the Hamas governed Gaza Strip and the Fatah-run West Bank. In addition to the continuing violations committed by Israeli forces in the Occupied territories and the enormous harm caused by the occupation, both Palestinian factions have been accused of human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment and executions.

Geography The occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) comprises the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The territory has a total area of 6,000 square km, about 5,655 for the West Bank and 365 for the Gaza Strip.

Population and language

Statistics indicate that in 2010, nearly 4.1 million Palestinians were living in the oPt. Refugees who were displaced as the result of the 1948 war constitute more than half of the population. Children make up nearly half of the population (48.2 per cent).

History and politics

For a long period of time, Palestinians suffered from colonisation and occupation. The Palestinian territory was part of the Ottoman Empire until it came under British occupation in 1917. British rule was formalised under a League of Nations Mandate in 1922, which lasted until 1947 when the partition resolution was issued by the United Nations (UN) to declare Israel's statehood, in May 14, 1948. Palestinians remember that day as the "Nakba" (catastrophe or disaster) because it resulted in the systematic displacement of a large number of them.

After the first Arab-Israeli war from May 1948 to January 1949, Israel controlled 78 per cent of historic Palestine. The area on the West Bank of the river Jordan, including East Jerusalem, came under Jordanian control, while the Gaza Strip was placed under Egyptian military administration. After the 1967 war, Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. These areas were placed under military control.

The first Palestinian intifada broke out in December 1987, which was called "the stone uprising". The causes of the uprising were the rejection of the continued Israeli occupation, rebellion against acts of violence and the deterioration of economic conditions. More than a thousand Palestinians were killed, tens of thousands of people were wounded and arrested and schools and universities were closed.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was created under the Oslo agreement signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993 to be a temporary solution for self-rule for Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Under the agreement, the PA would exercise administrative and security control over 22 per cent of the West Bank – the land known as area "A" - and administrative control over 18 per cent - area "B" - and other areas known as area "C", which constitute about 60 per cent of the land remain under Israeli control. Israel retained control of borders and security over East Jerusalem and the settlements.

After nearly nine years of self-rule and after the second Palestinian uprising in 2000 that was know as "Al-Aqsa Intifada" the infrastructure of the PA was destructed and a siege was imposed on the headquarters of President of the PA, Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004.

In 2002, Israel began building a wall of separation that was considered by the International Court of Justice (in July 2004) as a violation of international law. The Court called on Israel to dismantle the wall immediately, though construction has continued since.

In 2005 Israel withdrew its settler population, services and security forces from the Gaza Strip, theoretically coming under control of the Palestinian Authority. However, as Israel withdrew, it also increased its security presence along the border with Gaza and imposed tight controls on movement and the import and export of products. This led to a shortage of basic needs including medical supplies. Unemployment and restrictions on movement by Israel increased poverty and limited economic growth and investment; however, the population growth remains one of the highest in the world (2.8 per cent).

In December 2008, Israel's wide military operation against the Gaza Strip, left hundreds of casualties and widespread destruction to infrastructure. The UN Human Rights Council fact-finding commission headed by Judge Goldstone, pointed in its report to crimes of premeditated murder, targeting of civilians and collective punishment, some of which can be qualified as crimes against humanity.

Legislative elections were held to elect the members of the second Palestinian Legislative Council on 25 January 2006. Hamas won the majority of seats, while Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah Party) won the presidential election. The aftermath of the election saw violence between the two factions and the break down of unified rule in the Gaza and the West Bank. Currently there are two Palestinian governments, one in the West Bank led by Fatah and the other in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas.

Human rights and children's rights

The oPt does not have the status of a State. As a result it cannot sign or ratify international conventions including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, the PA expressed its commitment to respect all conventions issued by the UN.

More than 120 governments recognised the state of Palestine, but it only has an observer status in the General Assembly of the UN, represented by the PLO. In September 2011, the Palestinian Authority made an application for the full membership of Palestine to the UN and also became a member of UNESCO in November of the same year.

The PA in the West Bank and the government in the Gaza Strip have committed many human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests, torture and death sentences issued by military courts – some death sentences have been executed in the Gaza Strip.

The main issues facing children are poverty, anaemia and malnutrition in addition to the arrests of children by Israeli forces, house and school demolition, the security situation resulting from the continued occupation and its social and psychological effects on children.


Quick Facts

  • Population: 4,152,400 (UNDESA, 2011)
  • Population under the age of 18: 2,000,000 (see the Central Bureau of Statistics)
  • Number of Internet users: 356,000 (Internet World Stats/ITU, 2010)
  • Human Development Index: 114 (UNDP, 2011)
  • Happy Planet Index: 56 (New Economics Foundation)