Country Background

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century over the disputed territory of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite plans for peace and a two-state agreement, violence re-erupted in September 2015 after clashes at a Jerusalem holy site, and the situation remains bleak. In response to their shrinking territory, several terrorist organizations have risen up out of Palestine and threaten the safety of Israeli citizens. The Israeli government continues to enforce restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, such as the freedom of movement. Fighting between Israel and Palestinian armed groups and the 2018-19 Great March of Return demonstrations in Gaza have resulted in disproportionate civilian losses. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century over the disputed territory of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite plans for peace and a two-state agreement, violence re-erupted in September 2015 after clashes at a Jerusalem holy site, and the situation remains bleak. In response to their shrinking territory, several terrorist organizations have risen up out of Palestine and threaten the safety of Israeli citizens. The Israeli government continues to enforce restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, such as the freedom of movement. Fighting between Israel and Palestinian armed groups and the 2018-19 Great March of Return demonstrations in Gaza have resulted in disproportionate civilian losses.

What Nonprofits Need to Know

Below in the blue is an overview of the humanitarian and peacebuilding needs in Palestine. In the red are the primary sanctioned groups presently operating there. Because U.S. law prohibits the provision of “material support” to listed terrorists individuals and groups as well as engaging in trade with sanctioned persons and entities, the presence of these groups and sanctions programs can impact the delivery of aid and peacebuilding programs. The list below is non-exhaustive and changes frequently, so it is important for nonprofits to check all partners and those with whom they engage in transactions against, at a minimum, the U.S. Specially Designated National (SDN) and the United Nations Security Council Consolidated lists. Below the charts is information on OFAC licenses, where applicable, and links to our research and advocacy, and other relevant information.  

Humanitarian &
Peacebuilding Needs

According to the latest Humanitarian Needs Overview by OCHA, 2.4 million, or one in every two Palestinians are in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Food Security and Nutrition: In Palestine, food insecurity is primarily the result of poverty and unemployment. Based on a 2018 survey, over 1.2 million people in Gaza, or 62.2 percent of households, were identified as moderately or severely food insecure. Less than 15% of children in the Gaza Strip have a ‘minimum acceptable diet.’  

Natural Hazards: Palestine is highly vulnerable to natural hazards including earthquakes, floods, landslides, droughts, and desertification.

Disease and Healthcare: Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continue to face major barriers to healthcare and other basic services, including education, WASH, and adequate shelter. According to a 2018 study, restrictions on movement have a profound impact on Palestinian cancer patients’ survival rates.

Ongoing Hostilities: Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are exposed to high levels of violence. The blockade on the Gaza Strip, the internal divide between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and recurrent escalations of hostilities between Israeli military forces and Palestinian armed groups contribute to the crisis.

Displacement: Hundreds of Palestinian residential structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been demolished by Israel and contribute to displacement. In 2014, 100,000 people were displaced as their homes were destroyed, of whom 7,400 were still displaced at the end of 2019. In 2019, over 700 Palestinians in Gaza were displaced.

Gender-based violence (GBV): According to a 2019 study, nearly one in three women have reported psychological, physical, sexual, social, or economic violence by their husbands at least once during the preceding 12 months. The prevalence of violence against women by their husbands is significantly higher in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank.

Hamas: Also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas is a Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization that was officially founded in 1987. The group calls for the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state and rejects all agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. Headquartered in the Gaza Strip, the group is involved mostly in political activity and has small cells scattered throughout the West Bank for militant and illicit finance purposes. The U.S. listed the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997. More information here.

Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ):  This Iranian-inspired Islamic militant group primarily seeks to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and eliminate Israel from the region. The group strives to maintain an operational presence and has been listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. since 1997. More information here.

Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF)The PLF aims to enhance its networks in the West Bank and destroy the state of Israel. It re-established itself in the mid-1970s. The group maintains a recruitment and training presence in some of the West Bank’s refugee camps. It is a U.S.-listed terrorist organization. More information here.

Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC):  MSC is an armed Salafi jihadist group with ties to al-Qaeda and ISIL that aims to bolster its capabilities in the Gaza Strip against Israel and, ultimately, destroy the state of Israel. It maintains activity in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. listed them as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in August 2014. More information here.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)Formed in 1967, this group is a secular Marxist-Leninist revolutionary socialist organization and the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestinian Organization (PLO). It is headquartered in Gaza and recruits mainly in the West Bank. It is a listed terrorist group in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, and the EU. More information here.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force (IRGC-QF):Formed in the 1980s, this group launches attacks against Israel to reduce Israel’s presence and influence in the West Bank, and, ultimately, destroy the state of Israel. The group operates throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip and is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the UN. More information here.

Kach and Kahane Chai: These two marginal, extremist Israeli groups seek to expand Jewish rule across the West Bank and expelling the Palestinians. Israel outlawed Kach and its offshoot Kahane Chai (“Kahane Lives”) in 1994. West Bank settlements—Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, and Kfar Tapuach—are considered primary areas of Kahanist support. More information here.

Primary Terrorist Presence &
Other Sanctioned Groups

Access overview of the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List here.

“Security risks abound, movement and access restrictions remain severe…without additional funding and a durable Israeli and Palestinian commitment, the situation in Gaza could, once again, be pushed to the brink of collapse.”

Nikolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, 18 December 2019

Licenses offered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces sanctions programs. It has a licensing process that allows transactions with sanctioned entities, including listed terrorist groups, that would otherwise be unlawful. Nonprofits that operate in areas affected by sanctions often apply for licenses from OFAC so that they are able to provide services to civilians in conflict zones around the world without running afoul of U.S. sanctions law, engage in peacebuilding activities and more. Find more information here.

Policy Reform

The Charity & Security Network advocates for change in national security measures to better support nonprofits working around the world. In fragile contexts, counterterrorism measures often impede humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations from accessing finance for their programs and serving populations in need. Find out more on our key issues below:

  • Find more information on Material Support here.
  • Find more information on Financial Access here.

Useful Links

last updated: May 18, 2020