The ruins of the al-Haj family home where 8 family members were killed. hoto by Muhammad Sa’id, B’Tselem, 10 July 2014.

Today (Wednesday, 28 January 2015) B’Tselem published its report on the policy of attacking residential buildings in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The report addresses one of the appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives mirroring the devastation of their homes. Hamas made explicit its intention to harm civilians. In contrast, the Israeli government claimed that it acted to prevent harm to civilians in Gaza. Is that the case?

Locals after previous demolition there in Jan. 2014. Photo by B'Tselem

This morning, Civil Administration bulldozers demolished all structures in the tiny five-family Palestinian community in the northern Jordan Valley. This included the seven tents in which the families live, rendering them homeless for the third time since January 2014. The previous demolitions took place in January and February 2014, and in April 2014 the authorities demolished some structures in the community.

A child against the background of a prefabricated temporary dwelling provided to the community by the EU. Photo: 'Amer al-Aruri, B'Tselem, 18 Jan. 2015

On 12 Jan. 2015, the Civil Administration ordered all 15 families in the al-Ka’abneh community to leave in 48 hours due to “recent incursion into state land”. Att. Shlomo Lecker filed an objection on behalf of the families, who have lived near Wadi Qelt since 1983, after twice being evicted from future settlement sites. The Administration must enable Bedouin communities to maintain their lifestyle, plan independently and build legally, as well as connect them to infrastructure and provide them with basic health and education services.

Sniper firing 0.22 bullets at stone throwers, a-Nabi Saleh, 5.12.2014, Photo: Haim Schwarczenberg

Recent months have seen a dramatic rise in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets in clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets. The military commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai, confirmed that the military had adopted a policy of firing live ammunition at stone-throwers.

Day in and day out, the Palestinians of Khirbet Susiya see the solid, permanent housing of the settlement of Susiya (est. 1983). Although there has been a Palestinian village in the area since the 19th century, the Israeli military displaced the residents from the original site of the village, declaring it an archeological site, and does not allow any construction whatsoever in the present location. In the face of the raging winter storm, this injustice is more blatant than ever. This is what weathering the winter in Susiya is like, as in dozens of other Palestinian communities in Area C that Israeli authorities are trying to displace. Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem field researcher in the Southern Hebron Hills and a resident of Susiya filmed scenes from the storm.

Photo: 'Aref Daraghmeh, B'Tselem, 1 Jan. 2015.

On 1 Jan. 2015, with clear forecasts of an impending storm, the Israeli military and Civil Administration demolished the tents of five families in Khirbet Um al-Jamal, the Jordan Valley. Thirty individuals, including 22 minors, were left exposed to the elements, yet authorities did not arrange for alternate housing. The Red Crescent and the PA provided replacement tents, but these do not offer adequate shelter from the rain. Israeli human rights NGO MachsomWatch supplied plastic sheeting to weatherproof the tents. Last Feb. we reported the demolition of all structures in this community by Israeli authorities.

A-Zanah region, east of Khan Yunis, 4 December 2014

Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem field researcher in Gaza, has been hard at work documenting life amidst the ruins left in the wake of this summer’s fighting: “The fighting during the Operation Protective Edge made it practically impossible to get around Gaza to document events as they unfolded. For the past three months, B’Tselem’s 3 field researchers in Gaza have been carefully going through the Gaza Strip, following up on reports one neighborhood at a time, one house at a time. We take pictures of formerly vibrant, densely populated neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble. We meet people living amidst the ruins... (click to read more and view the photos)

2014 was a terrible year. It was one of the cruelest and deadliest in the history of the occupation. After so much killing, devastation, pain and suffering it is natural to want to “get back to normal”. We must not get back to normal. That “normal” is morally reprehensible. It is deadly, guaranteeing the very opposite of peace and justice. For the millions of Palestinians living under occupation, that “normal” means living a practically defenseless existence in the face of a constant threat of harm. Human rights violations must never become the norm – not after 47 years, not after one hundred.

The soldiers, the teen who was attacked, and the attack dogs in Beit Umar. Photo: Muhammad ‘Awwad, B’Tselem, 23 Dec. 2014

On 23 Dec. 2014, a confrontation developed between Palestinians and soldiers near the Carmei Tzur settlement, which lies on land owned by Palestinians from nearby Beit Umar. Palestinians threw stones at soldiers, who responded with crowd control measures. An attack dog brought there by soldiers attacked a Palestinian teen, who was taken to hospital from there into custody. B’Tselem reiterates its demand that the military cease the reprehensible use of attack dogs.

DCO checkpoint, near Ramallah. Over 100,000 Palestinian who live in the area have been prohibited passage since early 2000s. Photo: Suhair ‘Abdi, B’Tselem, 18 June 2013

B'Tselem's Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in an op-ed in +972 Magazine: A Jerusalem judge acquits an Israeli man who broke through an West Bank checkpoint into Palestinian-controlled territory, ruling it unacceptable for an Israeli citizen to be discriminated against on the basis of religion. (Arab — but not Jewish — citizens of Israel are allowed to enter Area A.) Yet the ruling is meaningless to the vast majority of West Bank residents who face discrimination on a daily basis.

B'Tselem has championed human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for over two decades, promoting a future where all Israelis and Palestinians will live in freedom and dignity.

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