More Palestinian civilians were killed last year than at any time since 1967, says United Nations

Hundreds of thousands were also forced to flee their homes

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The Independent Online

More civilians were killed in Palestine last year than at any time since 1967, the United Nations has said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 2014 had been a “devastating year” for the occupied territories, blaming Israel’s illegal occupation of the area.

“Overall, some 4,000,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remain under an Israeli military occupation that prevents them from exercising many of their basic human rights,” the report said.

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A Palestinian wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a UN school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, flashes the V-sign for "Victory" as he arrives on a stretcher at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City

“This crisis stems from the prolonged occupation and recurrent hostilities, alongside a system of policies that undermine the ability of Palestinians to live normal, selfsustaining lives and realize the full spectrum of their rights, including the right to self-determination.”

In July Israel bombarded the Gaza strip for seven weeks then sent troops into the area as militant groups fired rockets at Israel.

A total of 2,220 Palestinians, including 1,492 civilians were killed in Gaza, the UN said, noting that “Israeli attacks striking residential buildings accounted for a significant number of the civilian casualties”.

The Israeli Military has so far announced criminal investigations into only 19 ‘exceptional incidents’ relating to the hostilities.

The report says the Israeli death toll from the hostilities in Gaza was 71, 66 of whom were soldiers.

Palestine’s West Bank also suffered the highest number of deaths in years – 58 Palestinians and 16 Israelis.

 

“Also of concern is the sharp increase in the percentage of child casualties by Israeli forces [in the West Bank],” the report warned. “13 were killed, compared to four in 2013.”

Forced displacement of Palestinians was also a major concern for the relief agency. 28% of Gaza’s population were forced to flee their homes during the hostilities, some half a million people.

One in five of these internally displaced people has been unable to return to this day.

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London Palestine Action protesters at UAV Engines in Lichfield, Staffordshire, last August

“Palestinian civilians across the oPt continue to be subject to threats to their lives, physical safety and liberty from conflict-related violence, and from policies and practices related to the Israeli occupation, including settler violence,” the report said.

Hundreds of Palestinians were also displaced in the West Bank, by what the UN calls “punitive demolitions” of homes by Israeli authorities.

“Punitive home demolitions impact the entire family and constitute a form of collective penalty in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the report warned.

This Monday the US Obama administration’s most senior official called on Israel to end its occupation of the territories.

“Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told a meeting of liberal American pro-Israel lobbyists, J-Street. “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”

The British government also this week criticised continuing Israeli seizures of Palestinian territories.

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