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23 Jan, 2012

Palestinian Family Lives in Constant Fear of Jewish Settler Attacks

Burin, Israeli-occupied West Bank, January 2012 — “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person… No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home… Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks,” state Articles 3 and 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, for Palestinians living near radical illegal Israeli settlements, there is no security or protection from attacks.

10 December was International Human Rights Day, the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. To mark the day, OHCHR (oPT) and UN Relief & Works Agency are putting the spotlight on human rights stories and rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. In this series, we look at how the Israeli occupation and its associated regime affect the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians, raising questions about the protection of their human rights.

Hanan Sufan lives with her sons and four young grandchildren in a farmhouse nestled on the side of a hill in Burin, a village in the northern West Bank, near Nablus. Her husband had a heart attack and passed away soon after Israelis from the surrounding settlement outposts poured petrol around her house and set fire to it with the family still inside in 2002.

Harassment and violent attacks by Israeli settlers have continued since 2002. Metal grates cover the windows to protect the family from stones and Molotov cocktails, the most recent of which attackers from the closest settlement threw in February 2011. Twenty of the family’s sheep have been poisoned and a horse stolen, their cars and solar panels destroyed. Car tires lit on fire and rolled down the hill create fires that burn their olive trees. A fresh coat of paint is splattered across one of the windows, from a light bulb filled with paint thrown to keep the family from seeing into their backyard.

“I never leave the house”

Separated by a road from the rest of Burin, Hanan’s home is closest to the illegal Israeli settlements that ring the hills around the village, and therefore the most exposed to attack. “I never leave the house,” says Hanan. She stands guard much of the time on her balcony. One of her sons stays with her at all times, making steady employment impossible.

Olive harvest season is a particularly volatile time for settler violence, as Palestinian farmers come under attack while they harvest from their own trees. UNRWA has pushed for better protection of the Sufan family, and the 2011 olive harvest passed without incident according to Hanan. “The soldiers would shout ‘Good morning, Um Ayman!’” explains Hanan (Um Ayman is her colloquial title). A guard comprised of Israeli soldiers must be coordinated in order for her family to harvest and maintain their olive trees.

However, violent attacks on their neighbours and in adjacent villages continue, and Hanan and her family do not trust the Israeli army to protect them. Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli authorities have failed to protect Palestinians and their property from attacks by Israeli settlers. So the Sufan family will remain vigilant in defending their home, through economic hardship and trauma for the family’s young children.

“Why are they doing this?” Baha’a, in second grade, asked his grandmother after one attack. “They want us to leave,” Hanan told him. “But we will stay.”

UNRWA Launches US$300 m Appeal for Gaza and West Bank, Calls for End to Israeli Blockade

Gaza, 17 January 2012, (UNRWA Press Release) — Three years after the end of the Gaza war, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has launched an emergency appeal for Gaza and the West Bank worth just over 300 million US dollars. Speaking at UNRWA HQ in Gaza, Deputy Commissioner General, Margo Ellis, said “the effects of the war still persist today and the humanitarian needs of the women, men and children of Gaza remain widespread and acute”.

Commenting on the continuing Israeli blockade, she told journalists, “despite an easing of access, Gaza remains under a blockade and its population subject to collective punishment, an act illegal under international law”.

Meanwhile, UNRWA has continued its reconstruction efforts. Out of a 667 million USD reconstruction plan, UNRWA has been able to complete 22 projects worth some 22.5 million USD and is presently working on implementation of further projects worth some $115 million USD. This is a sizeable amount and reflects good progress made, but dozens more schools and thousands of homes still need to be built. While UNRWA welcomes the steps made by the Israeli authorities in approving projects, it sees a need to step up the pace of reconstruction. Three years on, UNRWA calls on the international community to work with the relevant parties to ease further the restrictions, give swifter approval for more projects and put an end to the blockade.

Commenting on the recent closing and destruction of the industrial scale Karni Crossing into Gaza by the Israeli authorities, she said this “has made exports at meaningful levels an impossibility. The Kerem Shalom crossing is the only commercial crossing available for traders and humanitarian organisations.” She added that efforts being made by the Israeli authorities to increase the capacity of Kerem Shalom must be appreciated, but “the possibility of returning to pre-blockade trade levels between Gaza, the West Bank and Israel remains low”.

According to UNRWA officials, the continuing blockade and the restrictions on exports have far reaching consequences which increase poverty and aid dependency and the demand for UNRWA’s emergency services.

A quarter of the UNRWA appeal is for the West Bank , where, according to Ellis, “forced displacements, settlement expansion, and settler violence are taking a devastating toll on the communities UNRWA serves. Since the beginning of 2011, nearly 1100 Palestinians, including 618 children, have been displaced due to demolitions in East Jerusalem and Area C. This compares with 606 Palestinians, including 297 children, displaced in 2010. As many of the displaced are refugees, the burden of assisting them falls upon UNRWA’.

The appeal focuses on three strategic priorities – food security, protection and emergency response capability. 80% of the requested funds will be used to promote food security through food assistance, cash assistance and job creation programmes. A sizeable portion of the appeal also aims to protect the rights of refugees and improve their access to basic emergency health, water, sanitation, education, and temporary shelter. The Appeal also seeks to further strengthen the Agency’s emergency response capacity, positioning the Agency to better respond to emergency needs despite the decrease in overall funds sought.

Background information

UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for nearly 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, social safety-net, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance and emergency response, including in times of armed conflict.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by contributions from States. The Agency’s core budget for 2010-2011 stands at $1.23 billion. In 2009, emergency appeals for the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon amounted to $827.4 million.