Israel is ‘key driver’ of Palestinian hardships in occupied territories – UN report

Israel is ‘key driver’ of Palestinian hardships in occupied territories – UN report
Israel is a “key driver” of Palestinian humanitarian suffering, according to a UN report which cited the country’s occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.

The “Fragmented Lives” report, published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Wednesday, said that Israel’s occupation “denies Palestinians control over basic aspects of daily life, whether they live in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

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It goes on to state that their “ability to move unimpeded within their own country, to exit and return, to develop large parts of their territory, build on their own land, access natural resources or develop their economy is largely determined by the Israeli military.”

Referring to the “prolonged occupation,” now in its 50th year, the report said such an occupation “cultivates a sense of hopelessness and frustration that drives continued conflict and impacts both Palestinians and Israelis.”

“Israel’s occupation is a key driver of humanitarian need,” it states.

The report also says that the number of Palestinians forcibly displaced from their homes reached a record high last year, affecting 1,601 people, including 759 children.

It says that 2016 saw the most demolitions in the West Bank since the UN office began documenting the practice in 2009, with 1,094 structures demolished. Three hundred of those were donor-funded structures provided as humanitarian assistance to “vulnerable Palestinians.”

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The OCHA also said it documented 572 “restrictions on Palestinian movement” in 2016, as well as an additional 110 obstacles placed on Arab residents in the city of Hebron.

Summing up the situation, David Carden, the OCHA chief for the occupied Palestinian territories, said that “at its heart, the crisis in the [occupied territories] is one of a lack of protection for Palestinian civilians,” the Times of Israel reported.

He went on to state that vulnerable Palestinians, particularly children, bear a disproportionate amount of the impact.

The UN report did have some positive news, stating that Palestinian fatalities from conflict-related violence in the West Bank and Israel declined significantly in 2016. A total of 107 such deaths were recorded last year, compared to 169 in 2015.

It also said that Israeli fatalities from conflict-related violence dropped 48 percent last year.

Israel has not yet responded to the report, which was published on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, when government offices are closed.

However, Israel has not held back in the past when responding to UN assessments. Earlier this month, the government held a debate in which it vowed to kick out the UN and affiliated agencies from their offices in East Jerusalem, after UNESCO passed a resolution which labeled Israel “the occupying power.”

In January, Israel withdrew $6 million of its 2017 contribution to the body, citing “anti-Israel” UN agencies. That decision followed the passage of a UN resolution in December that demanded an end to the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land – a move slammed by Tel Aviv as “shameful and absurd.”

Israel withdrew an additional $2 million from its 2017 UN contribution in March, over what it called the UN’s “obsessional discrimination” against Israel.

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Russia expels Estonian, Moldovan diplomats as part of ‘retaliatory measure’

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has ordered two Estonian and five Moldovan diplomats to leave the country in response to what it called the “unfriendly actions” of the Estonian and Moldovan governments, which earlier expelled Russian diplomats.

The ministry gave Nicolae Miinea, the minister-counselor of the Moldovan Embassy in Russia, a note “saying that in response to the expulsion of five Russian diplomats from Chisinau on May 29, five employees of Moldova’s diplomatic mission in Moscow have been declared persona non grata and have to leave the Russian Federation within three days.”

In its statement, the Russian ministry also expressed hope that the Moldovan authorities would understand that their “unfriendly actions” against Russia were “counterproductive” and “destructive” as well as counter to the “principles of partnership and mutual confidence.”

Later, the ministry also gave a similar note the head of the Estonian Embassy, in which it informed the diplomat that two Estonian diplomats were being declared persona non grata in response to Tallinn’s “provocative move.” The Estonian diplomats were given five days to leave Russian territory.

Moscow also said that the “ongoing destructive policy” of the Estonian government toward Russia would “have most adverse effects” on bilateral relations between the two countries, adding that it holds the Estonian side responsible for the ongoing deterioration in relationships.

The move of the Russian Foreign Ministry followed the similar actions of the Estonian and Moldovan authorities. On May 26, it was reported that the Estonian Foreign Ministry ordered Russian Consul General Dmitry Kazennov and Consul Sergey Surgaev to leave the country without giving any reasons for its decision.

At that time, Moscow called Estonia’s decision “an unfriendly and absolutely unfounded move” that “would not be left unanswered.”

On May 29, the Moldovan Foreign Ministry sent the Russian Embassy in Chisinau a note, informing it that five Russian diplomats must leave the country within 72 hours. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at that time that this decision had nothing to do with the work of the Russian diplomats and was a result of Moldova’s inner political struggle.

The move provoked an angry reaction from Moldovan President Igor Dodon, who said he was “deeply embarrassed by this unfriendly step” against Moldova’s “strategic partner,” Russia.

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