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Palestine - People

About 2,500,000 Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, and another 1,500,000 blockaded in Gaza [Israel exercises "effective control" over Gaza and as such remains the "occupying power" under international law]. Arabs living as citizens inside Israel proper total around 1 million (out of Israel's population of 6 million). Over 3 million Palestinian refugees comprise the Palestinian diaspora, having left their homeland in 1948. Many of these are double refugees, having left Palestine in 1948 and again fleeing in 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank as a result of the war in June of that year. The largest Palestinian diaspora community, approximately 1.3 million, is in Jordan. Many of them still live in refugee camps that were established in 1949.

According to United Nations projections, over half of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip relies on international humanitarian assistance, and dependency on outside aid continues to rise.

Despite relatively low incomes, there is a sizeable middle/upper-middle class in the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank and Gaza boast one of the highest per capita rates of university graduates in the Arab world. Palestinians have a long-standing tradition of spending generously on higher education, regarded as an asset.

The occupied territories are composed of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The population of the 370 sq km Gaza Strip is approximately 1,500,000. In addition, there were some 6,900 Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip (August 2000 estimate) prior to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. The West Bank covers 5,500 square kilometers. The population of the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) about 2,500,000. The population of East Jerusalem is approximately 390,000. In addition, there are some 176,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and about 173,000 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 estimate). The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) registered 824,622 refugees in the Gaza Strip and 583,009 in the West Bank in 2000. According to a UNRWA estimate in January 2011, there were 848,494 Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and 1,167,361 in Gaza, many living in 27 UNRWA-affiliated refugee camps, 19 in the West Bank and eight in Gaza.

There are about four million Palestinians and their descendants who were expelled or fled from Israel following its creation. Palestinian refugees were chased out or expelled by the actions of Zionist terrorist organizations - the Haganah, Lehi, and Irgun. Palestinian negotiators have so far insisted that refugees, and all their descendants, from the 1948 and 1967 wars have a right to return to the places where they lived before 1948 and 1967, including those within the 1949 Armistice lines.

They cite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN General Assembly Resolution 194, adopted in 1948, which says: "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."

UN Resolution 3236 "reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return". Resolution 242 from the UN affirms the necessity for "achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem".

Gaza is overwhelmingly urban, with 75-80% of the population living in the Gaza-Khan Yunis-Rafah conurbations. Gaza is also distinguished by the preponderance of its refugee population, constituting 2/3 of the total, of which about 1/3 are camp dwellers. The West Bank, by comparison, is, as a rural society. Fully 75% of the West Bank urban population is concentrated in 3 major conurbations: Nablus, Hebron, and the greater Jerusalem area (including Bethlehem and Ramallah-Bireh). At the end of 1998 there were over 500,000 registered refugees, one quarter of whom lived in nineteen recognized refugee camps and the majority in West Bank towns and villages. Some camps are located next to major towns, and others are situated in rural areas.

The West Bank, Palestinian Territories, is undergoing a transition characterized by rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 40% of West Bank residents lived in rural areas in 2006, compared with 62% in the early 1990s. At the same time, the Palestinian Territories have been undergoing an epidemiologic transition characterized by a persistent burden of infectious diseases typical of developing countries and a rise in noncommunicable (chronic) diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. High prevalences of type 2 diabetes and obesity were observed in urban and rural Palestinian areas beginning in the late 1990s, and the rates are rising.

Longevity and increased life expectancy may also explain the observed change in mortality patterns. The Palestinian health care system has good experience in handling infectious diseases; people are living longer and being exposed to more risk factors for chronic disease.

The unemployment rate among youth graduates was 52.5% in the first quarter of 2013. The highest unemployment rate was 64.7% for graduates in education and teacher training, while the lowest unemployment rate of 24.1% was among law graduates. Almost half of youth do not read newspapers and magazines. Among 49.9% of youth aged 15-29 years in the Palestine do not read newspapers or magazines at all; 40.4% in the West Bank and 65.3% in Gaza Strip. Also, 87.4% of youth in the Palestine watch television on a daily basis compared to 27.4% who listen to the radio daily, while 25.0% of youth use the Internet.

The estimated population in the Palestine totaled 4.42 million in mid-2013 (50.8% male and 49.2% female) with a ratio of 103.2 males per 100 females. Youth represents 29.9% of the total population. According to the final results of the Palestinian Family Survey of 2010, the total fertility rate in the Palestine declined to 4.4 births between (2008-2009) compared to 4.6 births in 2006. At the region level, the total fertility rate in the West Bank between (2008-2009) was 4.0 birth compared with 5.2 birth in Gaza Strip. Females aged 25-29 years contribute 26.0% of the total fertility rate, the highest contributor of all age groups.

The fertility transition has been well underway in the West Bank since 1985, with a lull during the Intifada period. No indication of a fertility transition in the Gaza Strip is seen. An examination of the age pattern of fertility reveals that Palestinian fertility had increasingly shifted toward younger ages, with a particular concentration in the age group 15-24 during the Intifada period. A decomposition analysis of the fertility rates shows that the recent rise in fertility is essentially due to changes in marital structure, but also to increased fertility within marriage among younger women.

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Page last modified: 11-12-2015 17:01:01 ZULU