UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl has cautioned that the alarming and expanding problems affecting Palestine refugees risk further destabilising the Middle East, and he is right.
The suffering of the Palestinian refugees has gone on for too long and the issue calls for serious attention of the international community.
Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are continuing to face a range of daunting human development and protection challenges.
Central to these pressures is the way in which the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territory and the blockade of Gaza dramatically impact the lives of Palestine refugees. The effects of endless violence, incursions, lack of freedom of movement and employment opportunities, as well as increasing levels of food insecurity and psychological trauma are indeed alarming and expanding.
At stake are the dignity and rights of Palestinian refugees — in particular the right to education for 535,000 girls and boys — as well as regional stability and the defence of robust multilateralism, as the UN official correctly points out.
The situation on the ground too is traumatic for Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression.
The protracted and extremely violent attack in the West Bank village of Al Mughayyir last Saturday, during which a 38-year-old Palestinian father of four, Hamdi Taleb Na’asan, was shot in the back and killed, is one example of the cruelty of occupation and settler violence.
Although Israeli security forces were stationed near the village and were immediately alerted, witnesses informed UN staff that it took some two hours before they intervened.
The grim reality is that there has been a huge rise in settler-instigated violence in the West Bank.
As per the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, the average number of violent incidents instigated by settlers per month increased by as much as 57% in 2018 compared to 2017, and by 175% in comparison to 2016. The situation just cannot be allowed to continue.
Israel’s refusal to extend the mandate of the observer force, Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), reflects its guilty conscience. TIPH’s civilian observers from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey have been reporting about violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in Hebron since 1997.
Israel’s goal is to cover up increasing incidents of escalation of settler attacks and violations of Palestinian human rights by the occupation. The world community should not allow this to happen.