Fact sheet: Settlements

When your land is illegally settled 

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Settlements are illegal colonies established by Israel within the occupied Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Only Jewish people may live in them.

Settlements by the numbers

As of June 2017, there were 196 settlements and 232 outposts in occupied Palestine.1

200,000 hectares

More than a third of the West Bank has been taken by Israel for settlements. That’s about 200,000 hectares of Palestinian land, including farm and pasture land.2 

790,000 settlers

In 1992, there were 248,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian areas. Today that number is almost 800,000.3

70% increase

Between April 2016 and March 2017, construction starts in settlements increased 70 per cent over the same period in 2015-2016.4

Thousands displaced

The demolition of homes and businesses to make way for settlements has displaced thousands of Palestinians. In 2016 alone, demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem displaced 1,600 Palestinians, half of them children. The livelihoods of more than 7,000 Palestinians were affected.5 

Settlers bring soldiers

For each of the almost 700 settlers living in the middle of the Palestinian city of Hebron there is one solider permanently stationed there. That’s one settler per soldier. 

Why are settlements considered illegal

According to the Geneva Conventions, an occupied power is prohibited from:

  • making permanent changes to the territory it has occupied;
  • moving its own citizens into the territory occupied.

Israeli settlements violate both of these provisions.

How do settlements impact Palestinians?

Water and farmland

The illegal confiscation of land means that Palestinians lose access to their farmland, orchards and water sources. Many settlements are strategically positioned to secure control over aquifers. Israeli settlers have three to four times as much water as Palestinians in the occupied areas.6 

Strategic control

The occupied areas are being carved up into unconnected pieces. This is most apparent in areas like East Jerusalem, where settlements slowly cut the city off from the West Bank. Palestinian families and communities are isolated from each other, and travel to work, places of worship and hospitals is very difficult. 


To protect settlers and facilitate settlement building, Israel imposes a strong military presence throughout the West Bank, creating tension and violence. Settlers and soldiers disrupt daily life for Palestinians and put them at risk for excessive and unjustified use of force.7

Two kinds of law

Settlers effectively live under Israeli civilian law, while Palestinians in the West Bank live under military law and are routinely deprived of their civil and political rights.

Ninety-nine per cent of the cases against Palestinians tried in the military court system result in conviction.8 When cases against Israelis are brought to the civilian court system, only 8 per cent result in charges.9


1. Outposts are much smaller clusters of Jewish settlers scattered throughout the West Bank. Some outposts develop into settlements. 
2. Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
3. Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem
4. Peace Now
5. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 
6. Al-Haq (PDF)
7. Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and +972
8. Haaretz
9. Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights (PDF)

This fact sheet is part of an MCC campaign called A Cry for Home. Learn more about the campaign and see how you can get involved. 

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