Quick Facts: Palestinian Refugees

June 19, 2024
  • Palestinian refugees are Palestinians who have been expelled from their homes and homeland during and after Israel’s establishment in 1948. Israel forcibly displaces Palestinians and prevents Palestinian refugees from returning as part of an effort to establish and maintain a Jewish majority state in Palestine/Israel.
  • Most Palestinian refugees are Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from the 78% of Palestine that Israel was founded on in 1948 and their descendants. The mass expulsion of approximately 750,000 Palestinians (about ⅔ of all Palestinians) in 1948 was a deliberate and systematic act of ethnic cleansing., known to Palestinians as the Nakba (“catastrophe”).
  • Other Palestinian refugee categories include 1) Palestinians who fled their homes but remained internally displaced in areas that became Israel, 2) Palestinians who were displaced for the first time when Israel’s military occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, 3) Palestinians who left the occupied territories since 1967 and have been prevented by Israel from returning due to revocation of residency rights, denial of family reunification, or deportation, 4) Palestinians internally displaced in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip since 1967, and 5) Palestinians driven from their homes during Israel’s genocide in Gaza in 2023-2024.
  • There are an estimated 9.17 million displaced Palestinians worldwide (as of 2021), according to the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. They include approximately 8.36 million refugees and 812,000 internally displaced persons.
  • Of those 8.36 million refugees, 2.3 million are in Jordan, more than 1.5 million are in occupied Gaza, 887,000 are in the occupied West Bank, 576,000 are in Syria, and 485,000 are in Lebanon.
  • Most Palestinian refugees live in stateless limbo in impoverished semi-permanent camps under brutal Israeli military rule in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, or in neighboring countries. Many rely on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), founded in 1949, for survival.
  • Under international law, all refugees have a right to return to areas from which they have fled or were forced, to receive compensation for damages, and to either regain their properties or receive compensation and support for voluntary resettlement. The right of return for Palestinian refugees has been affirmed repeatedly by the UN General Assembly, including Resolution 3236, which "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."

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