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Occupied Palestinian Territory

Overview of the history, context and current humanitarian situation of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

What exactly constitutes the  the occupied Palestinian territory?

The Palestinian territory or occupied Palestinian territory ( oPt) comprise the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.

Pre 1948

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were part of the territory west of the Jordan river of mandatory Palestine under British governance, formed in 1922.


From the 1948 war until the 1967 war, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were held by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The legal borders of the Palestinian territory are currently recognized by the international community to be as established by the 1949 Armistice Agreements.


Since the outbreak of an international armed conflict in the area in June 1967, when Israel gained effective control over the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, these territories have constituted occupied Palestinian territory. The laws applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory are the laws of belligerent (hostile) occupation, which are a central part of international humanitarian law (IHL). The primary legal instruments regulating occupation are the Hague regulations and the fourth Geneva convention. These laws are binding on Israel, according to the legal text and confirmed by the international community, including judicial bodies. According to Israel, however, none of the territory captured had a prior legitimate sovereign, thus the area cannot be considered as occupied by it under international law, an assertion authoritatively contradicted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),  the UN Security Council (in resolution 242 and resolution 338), and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

Immediately following the 1967 war Israel annexed[1] what is now known as “East Jerusalem”, encompassing approximately 70,500 dunams (7,050 hectares or 17,400 acres) of land[2]. The term “East Jerusalem” is today used to deliminate the area between the 1949 armistice line (the “Green Line”) and the eastern boundary of the Jerusalem municipality, unilaterally drawn by Israel and encompassing the city's eastern neighborhoods, some nearby villages as well as the Shu'afat refugee camp to the east and Kafr 'Aqab to the north. Israel considers this area as annexed and applies its own domestic law to the territory.  In 2000 the Israeli legislature amended the 1980 basic Law: Jerusalem the capital of Israel which confirmed the boundaries of the city to include East Jerusalem, and stipulated exclusive Israeli control.[3]

The international community, authoritative international judiciary and UN bodies have thus clearly rejected Israel's unilateral annexation[4] and the ruling of the court. Most notably, the international court of justice advisory opinion on the wall (2004).[5] Therefore East Jerusalem remains occupied and a part of the oPt, along with the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As East Jerusalem is occupied territory, the rules of international humanitarian law, along with provisions of international human rights law, are the applicable legal regime.

 Oslo Accords: 1993

In 1993, following the Oslo Accords, parts of the territories came under the nominal jurisdiction of the Palestinian national authority (known as ‘Area A and B’). In 2007, the Hamas-de facto authority ruled Gaza Strip split from the Palestinian authority, governing the area of Gaza independently since. Israel still exercises full military and civil control over 62% of the West Bank (known as ‘Area C’).

The political status of the territories has been the subject of negotiations between Israel and the PLO and of numerous statements and resolutions by the United Nations.  In November 2012, the UN General Assembly resolution 67/19 passed, upgrading Palestine to "non-member observer state" status in the United Nations. The change in status could be described as de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine.

Current Humanitarian Situation


According to James Rawley (United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator & United Nations Residents/ Humanitarian Coordinator):

"Palestinians in the occupied  Palestinian territory (oPt) faced continued hardships and the Palestinian authority faced continued restrictions
on its ability to engage in the Gaza Strip and area C and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the political deadlock  continued, leading the UN and its partners to highlight the growing risk to the viability of the two-state solution  and the dangers associated with a slide towards the one-state reality.

In my visits to Palestinian communities in both the West Bank and Gaza, I saw little tangible improvement in  the daily lives of men, women and children who continue to face serious difficulties in accessing basic services and livelihoods and experience recurrent incidents of violence. This situation is compounded by a lack of accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law"

Read OCHA Report "Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2012"

[1] Law and Administration Ordinance (Amendment No. 11) Law, 1967 and Law and Administration Order (No. 1) of 28 June 1967.

[2] Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Human Rights in East Jerusalem: Facts and Figures May 2010.

[3] Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, Area of the jurisdiction of Jerusalem (Amendment no. 1, 27th November 2000): “The jurisdiction of Jerusalem includes, as pertaining to this basic law, among others, all of the area that is described in the appendix of the proclamation expanding the borders of municipal Jerusalem beginning the 20th of Sivan 5727 (June 28, 1967), as was given according to the Cities' Ordinance. No authority that is stipulated in the law of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem Municipality may be transferred either permanently or for an allotted period of time to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body.”

[4] See United Nations Security Council resolutions 252, 267, 471, 476 and 478.

[5] Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, International Court of Justice, 9 July 2004.