Approximately 1.8 million people live in the Gaza Stripת, where the economic situation is on the verge of collapse. International aid organizations have addressed this reality for years, displaying tireless commitment in extremely difficult conditions. Any use of funds intended for humanitarian aid to support violence is illegal and is an extremely grave matter. Even if the defendants are found guilty – at present they should benefit from the presumption of innocence – this will not detract from the importance, integrity, and dedication of international humanitarian organizations assisting residents of the Gaza Strip.
Since 2010, Israel has severely restricted access to the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa, which lies northwest of Jerusalem, in order to prevent Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. Instead of building the Security Barrier along the Green Line in the area, Israel has chosen to deny villagers a normal routine, resulting in severe effects on employment, education, basic services and communal ties. The choice to impose these draconian measures reflects absolute prioritization of Israeli interests over the protection of local residents’ rights.
This month, Israel demolished 20 homes and 13 other structures in Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank, leaving 53 people – including 25 minors – homeless. In 2016, thus far, Israel has demolished 188 Palestinian homes on grounds of “lack of permit”, the highest number since 2006. This is part of an Israeli policy to step up demolitions, implemented although Israel is formally engaged in “structured dialogue” on the matter with the European Union and despite recent international condemnation in the Quartet Report.
After attacks perpetrated in early July by Palestinians, the Israeli military imposed severe travel restrictions on Palestinians in the Hebron district. The harm in al-Fawwar R.C., crowded with 10,000 residents on 1sq km, was particularly severe, mainly due to their dire financial situation. The restrictions were lifted on 26 July 2016. Local residents told B’Tselem about their difficulties in accessing medical care and the harm to livelihoods. These restrictions illustrate how easily Israel can disrupt the lives of Palestinians everywhere in the West Bank, regardless of the division into Areas A, B and C.
On 13 June 2016 Bilal Kayed finished serving a 14½-year prison sentence. His waiting family was then told that he was not being released, and was being placed in administrative detention for six months. Administrative detention is based on classified “evidence” that is not revealed to the detainee, so he cannot refute it, and has no maximum time limit. While Israel has long and widely used this draconian measure, imposing administrative detention immediately after a long prison sentence is exceptionally harsh. Yet the military judges - who are an integral part of the mechanisms of occupation - approved it even in this case.
Muhyi a-Din a-Tabakhi, a 10-year-old boy from a-Ram, was critically injured by a black sponge round fired by Border Police. He died shortly after. The officers were pursuing youths who were throwing stones at them. A-Tabakhi is the second Palestinian killed by this type of ammunition and the latest in a long line of those injured by it. Black sponge rounds are dangerous and it has been found repeatedly that police officers use them in breach of regulations. Therefore, this ammunition cannot be considered a “non-lethal means” and its use must be limited to cases of mortal danger.
July 2016 saw dozens of night raids by the military on homes in Dura, the hometown of the Palestinian suspected of the drive-by shooting that killed Rabbi Michael Mark and injured his family on 1 July. Soldiers woke up entire households, questioned adults, and left behind terrified children and frustrated adults who felt helpless at being unable to protect their families. Using the blanket excuse of security, the military and the ISA violated the rights of people whose only offense is being related to the suspect or living in the town that is home to his family. Such wholesale harm is inexcusable.
In September 2012, Israeli security forces put up a chain-link fence along al-Ibrahimi Street in Hebron, separating the paved road from a narrow, rough walkway. Since then, B’Tselem has twice documented security forces denying Palestinians access to the paved road, despite official claims that there is no such prohibition. On 25 July 2016, B’Tselem volunteer Raed Abu Ramileh filmed a Border Police officer seizing the bicycle of 8-year-old Anwar Burqan and throwing it in the bushes for riding it down the paved road, which is reserved for settlers.
Of some 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel daily, 63,000 have permits and enter Israel via one of 11 checkpoints. In June, B’Tselem again documented the rough conditions at two checkpoints: 300 and Qalandiya. Even in Ramadan, when workers fast all day, they are forced to leave for work in the dead of night, wait in long lines, and often sleep where they work and see their families only on weekends. This is not a necessary evil but a deliberate choice by the Israeli authorities. Whatever the reasons, it is unconscionable and unacceptable.
At 3:00 A.M. on 13 July 2016 Border Police fired at a car in the center of a-Ram. The shooting - captured on a security camera - killed the driver, Anwar a-Salaimeh, 22, and injured a passenger. While Israeli media reported the officers feared an attempted ramming attack, B’Tselem’s inquiry raises serious concerns that the gunfire was unjustified. The car did not swerve from its course; the officers were concealed by a parked car; and the driver had way of knowing they were there or that he should slow down. This incident must be seen in the context of a public mood that justifies the killing of Palestinians.
In October 2015, Israel resumed its use of administrative detention against Palestinian minors, for the first time since December 2011. At the end of April 2016, the IPS was holding 13 – the highest number since August 2008. Administrative detainees are held for indefinite periods of time, without knowing the charges against them and without standing trial. The increase in the number of Palestinians held this way, and the renewed inclusion of minors, is an even greater abuse of this draconian measure than before.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.