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In Jan.-June 2016, Israeli authorities demolished 168 dwellings in Palestinian communities in the West Bank, making 740 people homeless (incl. 384 minors), more than in any one year in the past decade (except 2013). Demolitions are carried out only in Area C, which comprises about 60% of the West Bank, and which Israel views as primarily meant to serve its own needs, and in East Jerusalem. Demolitions play a key role in Israeli policy in the West Bank to displace Palestinians and take over their land. Demolitions and devastating communities do not fulfill “the rule of law”. Rather, they are a longstanding, systematic dispossession to which all Israeli authorities are party.

B’Tselem information showing Israel demolished more homes in Palestinian communities in the West Bank in the first half of 2016 than in the entire previous year will be presented today at a Knesset conference on Israel’s Area C house demolition policy. From January to the end of June 2016, the Civil Administration demolished 168 homes, leaving 740 Palestinians homeless, 384 of them minors. Throughout 2015 the Civil Administration demolished 125 homes, leaving 496 Palestinians, including 287 minors, homeless. Over the last decade, from 2006 to 30 June 2016, Israel demolished at least 1,113 Palestinian homes in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem).

Two years after Israel’s 2014 operation in Gaza, and following a meticulous investigation, B’Tselem is publishing the casualty figures. These indicate that almost two thirds (63%) Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the operation, 1,394 out of 2,202, did not take part in the hostilities and 526 of them were children under 18. The Israeli government almost totally shirked its responsibility for the massive harm to civilians in the operation, casting all blame upon Hamas. However, the fact that one side violated the law of war does not permit its opponent to do the same. Additionally, the lethal results of the open-fire policy chosen were clear even on its first few days. Israeli decision-makers chose to ignore this fact and continue the same policy line, and the moral and legal responsibility for this massive harm to civilians lies with them.

The moment of firing at a-Tamimi, 9 Dec. 2011. Photo: Haim Scwarczenberg.

On 15 Feb. 2015, the military prosecution informed B’Tselem it had denied the appeal against closing the investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, who was shot with a tear-gas canister while throwing stones at a military jeep in Dec. 2011. The prosecutor proposed a variety of scenarios, no matter how implausible, to absolve the shooter and his commanders of criminal liability. Yet again, this decision sends soldiers a message that they may act with nearly universal impunity in the Occupied Territories, and highlights the limitations of the law enforcement system which does not examine overarching issues and policy or the responsibility of senior officers.

Roadblock at the entrance to al-Fawwar Refugee Camp: Residents return home with groceries. Photo by Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem.

After Palestinians killed two Israelis, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel and Rabbi Michael Mark, near Hebron last week, Israel imposed severe restrictions on Palestinian movement throughout the Hebron District. Imposed during Ramadan, just before ‘Eid al-Fitr celebrations, the restrictions grossly disrupted the lives of some 900,000 people and harmed the local economy. Most roadblocks are still in place. This massive collective punishment is an act of vengeance that serves narrow political interests at the expense of almost 1 million people.

The small room at Tomb of the Patriarchs compound. Still from video of incident, 1 July 2016

On 1 July 2016, a Border Police officer shot and killed Sarah Hajuj, a 27-year-old Palestinian woman from Bani Nai’m, at a checkpoint at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The Israel Police said the woman had tried to stab a policewoman. B’Tselem’s investigation and video footage indicate that the shooting was unjustified, as Hajuj - whose face had been pepper-sprayed - was alone in a room with armed policemen at the door. The shooting is part of a broadly-backed policy that permits lethal fire not only as a last resort, and grants the shooters immunity.

Scene of the attack in the South Hebron Hills, 1 July 2016. Photo by Mussa Qawasma, Reuters

B’Tselem expresses deep sorrow over the killing of Rabbi Michael Mark, 48, and the injury of his wife and two of their children in a shooting attack by Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills on Friday. B’Tselem conveys its sincerest condolences and best wishes for a speedy recovery to the Mark family. The deliberate targeting of civilians undermines every moral, legal and human standard. B’Tselem strongly condemns any and all deliberate attacks against civilians and calls once again on politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.

Victim of this morning's stabbing attack being taken to hospital. Photo: Ammar Awad, Reuters

B’Tselem expresses deep sorrow over the stabbing to death of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, by a Palestinian who entered her home in Kiryat Arba this this morning, and over the injury of a member of the settlement's security detail. B'Tselem conveys its sincerest condolences to the family and its best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured guard. The deliberate targeting of civilians undermines every moral, legal and human standard. B’Tselem strongly condemns any and all deliberate attacks against civilians and calls once again on politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.

The boys at the swimming pool shortly before to the incident. First on the right: Mahmoud Badran.

On Tues. night, June 21, soldiers shot and killed Mahmoud Badran, 15, from Beit Ur a-Tahta and wounded four of his friends. B’Tselem research shows that, contrary to the military’s version, the soldiers used massive fire at the car without justification. The shooting is in line with military policy which enables, despite an official prohibition, to use deadly fire even without threat to life and even when soldiers have non-lethal means available. The policy is backed by the senior ranking military and government officials who do nothing to change it, despite the lethal results.

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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