Three weeks ago, a fire sparked by a short circuit burned down our office in Jerusalem. The fire was soon quelled, and ever since, we have been working to restore the office while continuing our regular work. With or without an office, our activity remains focused on a single goal: exposing the reality in the Occupied Territories and the mechanisms driving it – in order to end the occupation.
In recent weeks, we have reported on continuing house demolitions, whether as punishment for families of attackers or as part of the organized effort to drive Palestinians out of Area C; on the situation in Hebron and in the Gaza Strip; on steps taken toward de facto annexation in the area of Har Gilo and the Cremisan Valley south of Jerusalem; and on other topics. The occupation is an ongoing, relentless injustice: even when Israeli media focus on violence against Israelis – violence that B’Tselem has repeatedly condemned – the whole picture includes the far-reaching implications of Israel’s control over millions of Palestinians. This control constitutes systematic, unceasing state violence against millions of people living under occupation.
Israel’s military court system is one of the major sources of injustice within the occupation. Beyond the fundamental duality of applying this system only to Palestinians, while Israeli settlers are tried under Israeli penal law, the degrading bureaucracy it entails cannot but wear down any individual entering the military courts. This so-called justice system chews up and spits out thousands of Palestinian families a year. We at B’Tselem experienced that personally last week when our friend Nasser Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the South Hebron Hills, was held in custody for almost a week – although three different courts ordered his release.
I will end by conveying heartfelt gratitude on behalf of all our team for the outpouring of support for B’Tselem in recent weeks. Your support is strongly felt and helps us persevere in exposing reality undaunted, despite growing incitement. We will continue to focus on what matters: ending the massive injustice that is Israel’s ongoing control of millions of Palestinian subjects.
Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, 33, has been on hunger strike for 69 days (as of 1 Feb.) to protest his arrest. He has been in administrative detention for over a month. According to medical literature, his life is by now in danger. Last week, Israel's High Court of Justice rejected Al-Qiq’s petition for release and refrained from determining, as yet, whether he should be released due to his medical condition. According to recent Israel Prison Service data, 527 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention – the highest figure since 2009.
Since the beginning of 2016 Israel has demolished eight Palestinian homes in the area defined as E1 and two homes in the South Hebron Hills, including one in Khirbet Susiya, where residents have struggled for years against expulsion and settler takeover. In January authorities continued their harassment of the residents of Jordan Valley communities. These actions serve Israel’s policy to create immutable facts on the ground ahead of any future agreement. This longstanding policy, which creates an impossible daily reality for Palestinians in Area C, constitutes forced transfer of protected residents within the occupied territory.
On 17 Jan. 2016 a Palestinian stabbed and killed Dafna Meir, 39-year-old mother of six. The assailant fled after stabbing Meir at the entrance to her home in the settlement of Otniel in the South Hebron Hills. It was reported that three of Meir’s children were home at the time but were not injured. The suspected attacker, a 15-year-old, has been apprehended. On 25 Jan. two Palestinians stabbed two women in the settlement of Beit Horon: Shlomit Kriegman, 23, died of her wounds the next day; a 60-year-old woman sustained moderate injuries. The asssilants were shot dead by a settlement security guard and an armed civilian as they fled. The deliberate targeting of civilians undermines every moral, legal and human standard. B’Tselem wishes to express its profound sorrow on the deaths of Dafna Meir and Shlomit Kriegman and extends its condolences to their families. B’Tselem wishes the injured woman a speedy recovery. B’Tselem strongly condemns any deliberate attack against Israeli and Palestinian civilians and reiterates its call to politicians and leaders to act responsibly and refrain from fanning the flames of violence.
Since early October 2015, the military has imposed broad restrictions on Palestinian movement in central Hebron, preventing residents from maintaining a reasonable routine. The military has blocked the entrances to some streets in the Old City, closed the Tel Rumeidah neighborhood to non-residents, introduced stricter inspections at 16 existing checkpoints, and established new checkpoints. Passersby are subjected to repeated and lengthy inspections and residents report that they feel imprisoned, leaving home only for work and studies.
Since the start of 2016, Israel has demolished three homes as collective punishment for attacks against Israeli civilians committed by family members. This left 18 persons homeless, including seven minors. Security forces have also surveyed dozens of homes slated for future demolition. Despite the extreme nature of this act and the clear position of jurists that it is illegal, the HCJ repeatedly approves the demolitions. Demolishing or sealing homes is a draconian, vindictive action targeting entire families not suspected of any offense.
The Gazan health care system is unable to provide adequate care to the residents of Gaza, in part due to neglect during Israel’s direct rule there and also to the present-day siege. Yet Israel does not allow most patients who need non-lifesaving medical care to enter Israel or pass through it en route to the West Bank or Jordan. An entry permit for medical care is not an act of charity: since Israel still controls Palestinian movement in and out of Gaza, it must let patients leave Gaza to allow them to get proper care.
On 16 Dec. 2015 approval to deposit a plan for review was given for a plan to build 891 residential units south of the neighborhood of Gilo, which is on West Bank land unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem. The southward expansion lays the groundwork for annexation by creating a contiguous bloc between Gilo and the settlement of Har Gilo. The Cremisan Valley, an area under the plan that serves Palestinians as a vital source of income and for recreation, will apparently become a free public space for the residents of Gilo and Har Gilo. This belies the security justification for the barrier’s route accepted by the High Court, and exemplifies Israel’s annexationist policy.