UN says 300,000 Palestinians in mooted Israeli annexation area

Khirbet al-Makhul community, which Israel razed in September. 

Dylan Collins The Electronic Intifada

There are nearly 300,000 Palestinians living in “Area C” of the occupied West Bank, according to new figures published this week by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  

Area C constitutes the over 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, designated to full Israeli civil and military control by the 1995 Oslo II agreement. The area is home to 532 residential communities, “compromising some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank in terms of humanitarian needs,” according to the UN.

But Naftali Bennett, an extreme rightwing politician and Minister of Economy and Trade, previously claimed that only 50,000 Palestinians lived in Area C. Bennett, who is from the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, called on Israel to fully annex the area and impose Israeli citizenship on its inhabitants.

In 2008, the Israeli NGO Bimkom previously estimated that Area C was home to between 150,000 and 180,000 Palestinians, as journalist Amira Haas reported at the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Firing zones

OCHA estimates that around 18 percent of the West Bank is designated as closed military zones for military activities. Some 6,224 Palestinians live in communities in these areas, known as “firing zone” communities. Another more than 12,000 reside in close proximity of them.

In Masaffar Yatta – called “Firing Zone 918” by Israeli occupation authorities – more than 2,000 persons are slated for eviction and have lived in a state of uncertainty for years.

In September 2013, twelve families (around 120 persons) were displaced when Israeli bulldozers razed the Khirbet al-Makhul community in the Jordan Valley, as Dylan Collins reported for The Electronic Intifada at the time.

The overwhelming majority of Palestinian “firing zone” communities rely on herding and farming for their economic livelihood. More than 80 percent of them have reported “a decrease in their number of livestock during the last two years due to a number of Israeli measures, including restrictive planning and zoning, settler violence and military activities,” the OCHA fact sheet reported.


According to the statistics, the Jerusalem district is the most densely populated part of Area C, where 74,000 Palestinians reside.

In occupied East Jerusalem, Israel imposes a complex web of bureaucracy on the city’s indigenous Palestinian residents as part of the ongoing process of expelling them to make way for the expansion of Jewish-only settlements.

Near the Israeli settlement colony of Ma’ale Adumim, some 2,800 Palestinian Bedouins – more than 85 percent are already refugees – live in Jerusalem but are east of Israel’s wall in the West Bank.

Hundreds of families were forcibly relocated in the past, and today all of the communities have had land stolen by settlements and live without electricity. Israeli authorities have also issued demolition orders to the majority of the homes.

Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem hold special Israeli-issued blue identity cards. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem estimates that more than 14,000 persons have had their Jerusalem-residency revoked since 2000.

Between 1999 and 2012, Israeli occupation authorities demolished 928 homes in occupied East Jerusalem, according to B’Tselem’s statistics.

Pipe dream

Below is a list of other alarming estimates from the OCHA fact sheet:

  • Israeli authorities have issued demolition orders to nearly 70 Palestinian residential areas.
  • 49 percent of the communities suffer from severe restrictions on freedom of movement.
  • Half of the communities have or are experiencing land confiscation.
  • 21 percent suffer from physical violence by Israeli settlers.
  • 32 percent suffer from settler attacks on their property.
  • 27 percent of the residents in Area C are already UN-registered refugees in crowded camps that constitute just six percent of the total area.

“This is our home,” Naftali Bennet said at an Israeli settler conference in January 2013. “We are the tenants here, not occupiers.”

But despite an ever-growing list of Israeli policies designed to displace and ghettoize Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, there are nearly twice as many Palestinians still living in Area C than previously estimated.

Though Bennett’s plan was already improbable, the fact that over 300,000 Palestinians live in the area he wants to annex means that his racist designs are also little more than a pipe dream.


Patrick Strickland

Patrick Strickland's picture

Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist and frequent contributor at The Electronic Intifada. He is presently working on his first book for the London-based publishing house Zed Books. See his in-depth coverage for EI.