Israel effectively allows Palestinians to build in only 1 percent of Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank over which it retains full control, according to a new report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The report also said that so far this year Israel has demolished 180 Palestinian structures in Area C. As a result, 319 Palestinians, including 167 children, have lost their homes.
Among the destroyed structures were 56 residential buildings, including tents and tin shacks; 70 animal shelters; 21 traditional outdoor taboun ovens; seven water pools, or uncovered cisterns; and two partially built cisterns.
The report stated that due to the severe Israeli restrictions, Palestinians have no choice but to build without permits. In 70 percent of Area C (44 percent of the West Bank), Palestinian building is entirely forbidden, as this land is earmarked for the settlements, the army, nature reserves or a buffer zone around the separation fence. In the remaining 30 percent, construction is theoretically possible, but getting a permit is so difficult as to be practically impossible. Hence effectively, Palestinians can build freely on only 1 percent of Area C - most of which is already totally built over.
These restrictions, the report continued, make it impossible to connect many places to water and electricity or supply them with proper education and health services, thus contributing to the misery of life in the West Bank. It also makes it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to develop in accordance with the needs of its growing population, most of which is concentrated in either Area A (Palestinian administrative and policing control) or Area B (Palestinian administrative control but Israeli security control).
The division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C was part of the 1995 Oslo 2 accord. It was supposed to expire in 1999.
The report also quoted the World Bank's finding that Israeli planning and building restrictions have "become an increasingly severe constraint to [Palestinian] economic activity"
The report is entitled "Restricting Space in the oPt: The Planning and Zoning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank," where "oPt" stands for "Occupied Palestinian Territory." OCHA has submitted it to representatives of some 40 donor states to the PA.
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