On World Environment Day, the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) is pleased to present a position paper entitled:

Impact of Occupation and Environmental Challenges on Palestine


The theme for this year’s World Environment Day—land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience—is particularly relevant to the Palestinian context. The ongoing conflict in Gaza, coupled with the actions of Israeli settlers and military forces, has caused significant damage to Palestinian lands, water resources, and vegetation cover. This position paper highlights the environmental degradation caused by these actions and the compounded challenges due to limited governmental planning, climate change challenges, and the severe impact on the Palestinian people.

Current Environmental Status

  1. Land and Water Resources: The Israeli occupation has resulted in extensive damage to Palestinian lands and water resources. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted since 1967, and 20% of Palestinian olive trees were unharvested in the 2023 season due to occupation restrictions. Palestinians have access to only 17% of the Mountain Aquifer’s water, while Israel and its settlements consume 83%. The ongoing conflict and restrictions have significantly impacted the Palestinian economy and food security. Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley cultivate 51% of Palestinian agricultural lands (confiscated by military orders), while Palestinians are left with 49%. Additionally, Israeli settlers have started confiscating natural grazing areas in the West Bank, making them Israeli grazing outposts. In Gaza, the Israeli military forces have damaged agricultural lands, open spaces, and water wells, leading to severe water shortages and forcing people to use polluted water for drinking, food, and hygiene.
  2. Vegetation and Green Coverage: The destruction of vegetation cover due to military operations in the Gaza Strip and settlement expansion has led to increased desertification. Reports indicate that the Israeli Occupation controls over 60% of the West Bank, significantly reducing accessible green and agricultural areas for Palestinians. This loss of green cover affects biodiversity, soil erosion, and agricultural productivity. According to UNOSAT, compared to the average of the previous six years, approximately 34% of the permanent crop fields and arable land in the Gaza Strip exhibited a significant decline in health and density in January 2024. Crop analysis shows that 21% of the arable land has been damaged.
  3. Climate Change and Drought: The Palestinian territories face severe challenges from climate change, including increased temperatures and prolonged drought periods. With limited capacity and resources, the Palestinian government struggles to implement effective climate adaptation strategies. The frequency and intensity of droughts have increased, putting additional stress on already scarce water resources and agricultural lands. Increased rainfall variability, along with the increase in brackish water in the artesian wells in the Jordan Valley and Gaza and saltwater intrusion, negatively affect aquifers and groundwater quality in Gaza.

Impact of Occupation Practices

  1. Destruction of Infrastructure: Military operations and settler activities have led to the destruction of vital infrastructure. Over 18,000 homes have been demolished in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, often accompanied by the destruction of agricultural land and water infrastructure. This systematic destruction undermines efforts to restore and manage natural resources effectively. At least 60% of Gaza’s housing units are destroyed or damaged, in addition to 352 educational and 20 water and sanitation facilities.
  2. Restriction of Access to Resources: The Israeli occupation severely restricts Palestinian access to essential resources. Approximately 85% of the Jordan Valley is inaccessible to Palestinians, limiting their ability to cultivate fertile land and access water. The construction of the separation wall has also isolated communities from their agricultural lands, further exacerbating food insecurity. The imposed force on people and commodities movement has severely affected the Palestinian economy, leading to a projected 25.8% GDP loss in 2024.
  3. Pollution and Environmental Degradation: Industrial zones established in settlements often lack proper environmental regulations, leading to significant pollution of land and water. Hazardous waste from these industries contaminates Palestinian agricultural lands and water sources, posing severe health risks to the local population. Since the start of the Gaza war, at least 100,000 cubic meters of sewage and wastewater are being dumped daily onto land or into the Mediterranean Sea, leading to severe water contamination and health risks.

Socioeconomic Impact

  1. Quality of Life: The environmental degradation has a direct impact on the quality of life for Palestinians. In the West Bank, the low-quality environment affects daily living conditions, while in Gaza, the destruction is so severe that it has created a humanitarian crisis. Poor environmental conditions contribute to health problems, reduced agricultural yields, and lack of access to clean water. As of December 2023, 1.9 million people (about 85% of Gaza’s population) are internally displaced, with many living in dire conditions.
  2. Unemployment and Poverty: Environmental degradation is closely linked to socioeconomic issues such as unemployment and poverty. The destruction of agricultural lands and water resources limits economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas. The high unemployment rate, which stands at 27% in the West Bank and 46% in Gaza, exacerbates poverty and food insecurity, particularly among vulnerable groups like children and the elderly. The Palestinian economy lost an estimated 8.7% of its real GDP in 2023 and is projected to lose 25.8% in 2024, equivalent to $6.9 billion USD. Gaza’s economy shrank by 80% in the fourth quarter of 2023.
  3. Human Rights Violations: The ongoing environmental destruction and its socioeconomic consequences represent a violation of the human rights of Palestinians. The right to a healthy environment, access to clean water, and food security are all compromised by the actions of the occupying forces. The international community has a responsibility to address these violations and support efforts to protect Palestinian rights. By December 2023, the conflict had set back human development in Gaza and the West Bank by 11-16 years.


  1. International Advocacy and Support: The international community must take a more active role in advocating for the protection of Palestinian environmental and human rights. This includes pressuring Israel to halt activities that cause environmental degradation and providing support for Palestinian-led initiatives aimed at land restoration and sustainable development.
  2. Strengthening Local Governance: The Palestinian government needs to enhance its capacity to address environmental challenges through comprehensive planning and policy implementation. This includes developing strategies for climate change adaptation, water management, and agricultural resilience.
  3. Empowering Civil Society: Palestinian civil society organizations play a crucial role in environmental protection and community resilience. Increased support for these organizations can help amplify their efforts in advocacy, education, and practical interventions to restore and protect the environment.
  4. Investment in Sustainable Development: Investment in sustainable development projects is essential to rebuild and enhance the resilience of Palestinian communities. This includes initiatives in renewable energy, water conservation, sustainable agriculture, and green technologies that can create economic opportunities and improve living conditions.


  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
    Title: “Gaza Strip: Humanitarian Impact of the Blockade” (2023)
  • United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT)
    Title: “Damage Assessment of Agricultural Lands in Gaza” (2024)
  • Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)
    Title: “Impact of the Conflict on the Palestinian Economy” (2023)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
    Title: “The Gaza War: Expected Socio-Economic Impacts on the State of Palestine” (2023)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
    Title: “Socio-Economic Impact of the Conflict in Palestine” (2023)
  • Friends of the Earth International
    Title: “Environmental Nakba: Environmental Injustice and Violations of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine” (2023)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    Title: “Israel: White Phosphorus Used in Gaza, Lebanon” (2023)
  • The New Arab
    Title: “Economic Impact of the Gaza Conflict on the Palestinian Territories” (2023)
  • The Guardian
    Title: “Emissions from Gaza Conflict and Its Climate Impact” (2024)
  • Al Jazeera
    Title: “Is Israel’s Gaza Bombing Also a War on the Climate?” (2023)
  • Amnesty International
    Title: “The Occupation of Water” (2017)
  • Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem)
    Title: “Israel is Starving Gaza” (2024)
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN)
    Title: “Preliminary Findings on Emissions from the Gaza Conflict” (2024)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
    Title: “Environmental Assessment of the Gaza Conflict” (2024)
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
    Title: “Humanitarian Situation in Gaza” (2023)
  • Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS)
    Title: “Economic Impact of the Gaza Conflict on Palestinian Territories” (2023)