Beyond the humanitarian implications of living under military occupation, the Palestinians throughout the West Bank must endure the impact from the illegal settlements. Today nearly 20% of people living in the West Bank are Israeli settlers living illegally on ethnically cleansed Palestinian properties.

Hebron is the only city in Palestine where illegal Israeli settlements have been installed in a Palestinian city center. The settlers within the city center have been drawn to the area as a result of its historical and religious importance, including the historically significance of the Ibrahimi Mosque. The Israeli movement working to takeover Hebron's city center, including the Ibrahimi Mosque, has attracted the most radical and violent extremist groups and individuals from all of Israel.

Since the start of their existence, settlements of Hebron's Old City have had a massive impact on the daily life of Palestinians and are a key driver of human rights violations. The settlers in Hebron walk in the streets of the Old City heavily armed, acting with impunity. Attempting to push Palestinians away from their homes and out of the Old City, settlers strategically target civilians with violence and intimidation. Their aggression is supported and reinforced by Israeli occupation forces. At the same time, Israeli occupation forces use 'security' {of the settlers} as an excuse for their activities which have made life unbearable for Palestinian residents, in an effort to drive them from their homes.

Policy changes from the American government, starting in 2017 and culminating with latest position on settlements, have had a significant impact on the ground for Palestinian families in Hebron's Old City. During these recent years of unhinged support, any pressure on the Israeli government to conform with international law has diminished. The culture of impunity, among both the occupation forces and the settlers, has become more pervasive than ever.

Israeli government officials, occupation forces and settlers have visibly become more empowered to act in violation of the law. In Hebron's Old City, there has been a significant increase in settler violence, harassment and intimidation. Many violent incidents take place in the presence of Israeli security forces, often with their participation.

The occupation forces are using this period to increase the military chokehold on Hebron. Excessive use of lethal force by Israeli occupation forces during peaceful demonstrations and the targeting of news reporters has become common place. Increasing aggression from the Israeli military is seen through arrests of children, property demolitions, attacks of schools, home raids, confrontations and arrests on checkpoints, confiscation of homes and prevention of movement. 

Legality of Settlements

The legality of settlements is not an issue which is questioned in normal circumstances outside of the right-wing Israeli public and political sphere. Indisputably, when Israel seized control of the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, the Israeli government became an occupying power as a matter of international law. When a territory is placed under the authority of a hostile army, the rules of international humanitarian law dealing with military occupation apply.

When a territory is placed under the authority of a hostile army, the rules of international humanitarian law confer certain limitations and obligations on the occupying power. Prohibited actions include forcibly transferring protected persons from the occupied territories to the territory of the occupying power. It is unlawful under the Fourth Geneva Convention for an occupying power to transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies. In other words, international humanitarian law prohibits the establishment of settlements, as these are a form of population transfer into occupied territory.

The United Nations General Assembly, The United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice have all issued decisions that Israel Settlements on the West Bank are illegal, violating the Fourth Geneva Convention. Any measure designed to expand or consolidate settlements is also illegal. Confiscation of land to build or expand settlements is similarly prohibited.


Increased Humanitarian Need

The increase in attacks and violence, as well as the expanded Israeli efforts to takeover properties in the H2 areas, have left Palestinian families in the Old City of Hebron in severe shortage of aid. The levels of contributions supporting protection, legal aid, psychosocial support, medical services and other provisions of basic needs are far below the level of need.

As the humanitarian crisis intensifies, the levels of international aid and support of the Old City residents must be scaled up to prevent further forced displacement of residents and irreparable harm to cultural heritage. More support and funds from the international community are vital to boost humanitarian efforts and protection of civilians against war crimes occurring daily at their door steps.