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West Bank tips deeper into crisis


With all eyes understandably on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the economic and security crisis unfolding in the Israeli-occupied West Bank risks being overlooked, as funds to address the growing needs evaporate, according to aid groups and Palestinian residents. Escalating violence by the Israeli military and settlers, intensified restrictions on mobility, tens of thousands of cancelled work permits, and the withholding of tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority (PA) are combining to tip the territory into a humanitarian crisis, they say. 

Since Oct. 7, Israel has stepped up military raids in the West Bank, and violence by Israeli settlers—already on the rise—has increased sharply. At least 291 Palestinians, including 75 children, have been killed, according to the UN's emergency aid coordination body, OCHA. This represents a massive rise. In all of last year, Israeli forces killed 146 Palestinians in the West Bank (and that was the highest annual number since 2004), according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

Revoked permits, job losses, and unpaid salaries
After Oct. 7, the Israeli government suspended all permits allowing Palestinians living in the West Bank to work in Israel or in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that this move eliminated around 208,000 jobs—about 24% of all employment in the West Bank. Israel's agriculture and construction sectors are dependent on Palestinian and foreign workers who take on low-paid jobs that Israeli citizens refuse.

For tens of thousands of government employees, the situation is equally bleak. Israel collects taxes on Palestinian imports and exports to both the West Bank and Gaza. It transfers the revenue—after taking a 3% commission—to the PA, but frequently uses it to exert pressure on the Palestinian leadership.

A transfer hasn't been made in more than two months due to disagreements over a portion of the money that goes to pay public employee salaries in Gaza. As a result, the PA has been left without enough funds to pay public employees, although an agreement brokered by the United States on Dec. 17 may see the transfers resume.

— from The New Humanitarian, Dec. 19 (excerpt)