What do you do when there’s no electricity or access to advanced technology? Enterprise, innovation and ingenuity try to fill the void. Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, a B’Tselem field researcher in the Gaza Strip, brings us a portrait of Gaza as seen through his own eyes. A third installment in a series.
On 27 April 2016 a brother and sister were shot dead as they approached Qalandiya Checkpoint. The sister was apparently carrying a knife. B’Tselem’s investigation indicates they were killed without justification and could have been arrested, and that they received no medical aid. This incident is one of dozens of unjustified killings since Oct. 2015, some tantamount to executions. Such incidents are possible due to a public atmosphere in Israel that encourages the killing of Palestinian assailants. Senior political and military figures, including the prime minister, minister and the attorney general, have implicitly or explicitly supported this approach.
On 10 October 2015, soldiers arrested six Gazan youths who crossed the perimeter fence into Israel during a demonstration and held them at a military base for three days. Three of them, minors, told B’Tselem they were held handcuffed out in the open, subjected to beatings and degradation, and denied food, drink and sleep. The fact that soldiers can so easily turn a military base into an exterritorial area in which they can treat minors as they please is, in part, due to a law enforcement system which has long enabled security establishment personnel to use violence against detainees, including minors, without any accountability.
Yesterday (4 May) Raed Abu a-Rmeileh, a former B’Tselem camera volunteer, and two friends were assaulted by settlers when Abu a-Rmeileh tried to film them harassing two girls with a dog. He was hit on the head with a drink can and knocked to the ground. The settlers then assaulted his friends and fled. Soldiers present did nothing to stop the attack or help Abu a-Rmeileh, who was later taken to hospital with a light head injury. After his release today, he filed a police complaint, provided the footage and identified the assailants’ photos.
Nine years have passed since Israel began its blockade on Gaza, paralyzing the job market in an area inhabited by two million people. The right to work and make a decent living are both basic human rights. On 1 May 2016, we highlighted the stories of four professionals desperate for work in Gaza.
Since Oct. 2015, Israel has demolished or sealed 37 homes to punish relatives of Palestinians who attacked Israelis or were suspected of such attacks, leaving 149 people homeless, including 65 minors. Dozens more homes were measured as preparation, forcing 339 people, incl. 128 minors, to live under threat of demolition. Though this collective punishment is unlawful and immoral, the HCJ continues to routinely approve demolition orders. The Supreme Court President has refused recent calls by some justices to revisit the issue.
In March 2016, Israeli forces shut down operations in several Palestinian quarries in Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem, assaulting laborers and confiscating essential equipment. According to quarry owners, these raids have occurred for years but have recently intensified. Israel systematically prevents Palestinian quarries from operating in the West Bank while allowing Israeli ones to operate there undisturbed, in breach of international law, as part of a policy to push Palestinian activity into enclaves and de facto annex the rest of the West Bank.
The MAG announced his decision to close the case against OC Binyamin Regional Brigade Col. Shomer. The officer had shot and killed ‘Ali-Kosba, 17, with three bullets to the upper body, after the latter threw a stone at his vehicle. B’Tselem says this decision is inherent to the whitewash mechanism which is Israel’s military investigative system. The MAG’s determination that the firing was lawful because Shomer claimed he had aimed at ‘Ali-Kosba’s legs but missed indicates the system’s willingness to ignore the law and regulations in the interest of absolving members of the security forces who unlawfully killed Palestinians.
On 7 April 2016, Israeli authorities carried out extensive demolitions in six Palestinian communities in the West Bank, five near the Ma’ale Adummim settlement and one, Khirbet Tana, in the Jordan Valley. Authorities demolished nearly all structures in Kh. Tana; it is the fourth demolition the community has undergone since February. All told, 34 structures, including 19 homes, 12 livestock pens, and three entrances to cave dwellings were demolished, leaving 112 people homeless, including 55 minors. Since January 2016, demolitions in Area C communities have left 563 people homeless, including 305 minors.
More demolitions this morning in the Jordan Valley and Ma’ale Adumim Area. Wave of demolitions, today, Apr. 7, in several West Bank communities including E1 and repeat demolitions in Khirbet Tana in the Jordan Valley. Earlier this week, the authorities demolished 6 dwellings in Um al-Kheir, South Hebron Hills, and 2 in Wadi al-Qalt. The recent action has left 43 people homeless, including 26 minors. It is part of a demolition campaign launched by Israel in early 2016, in which 128 dwellings and 138 other structures in vulnerable communities have already been destroyed, leaving 510 people, including 275 minors homeless.
Security forces recently demolished 4 apartments of relatives of Palestinians who perpetrated, or were suspected of perpetrating or aiding in attacks against Israelis, after the HCJ dismissed petitions filed by the families and HaMoked, upholding the demolitions. The demolitions left homeless 28 people, including 6 minors, who are suspected of no wrong doing. Since Oct. 2015 Israel has stepped up punitive house demolitions, with 36 apartments demolished or fully or partially sealed since. The large-scale sealing and demolition operations have left 147 people, including 65 minors, homeless.
B’Tselem director wrote yesterday to OC Central Command and Chief of Police informing them of death threats made against ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, the B’Tselem volunteer who filmed the incident in which a soldier shot and killed ‘Abd al-Fatah a-Sharif in Hebron. El-Ad requested assurance that the military and police commanders are aware of the danger to which Abu Shamsiyeh and his family are exposed. Since the footage was released, Abu Shamsiyeh and his family have been subjected to threats of murder, stones thrown at their home, and hateful posts on Facebook. Most of this violence was instigated by settlers.
On the night of 12 March 2016, there was an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF Spokesperson said the attack targeted a Hamas training camp, in response to a rocket fired at Israel. No one was injured on the base. The spokesperson failed to mention that a nearby family home was also hit, killing two children. This attack is part of a longstanding unlawful and immoral policy of air strikes on Gaza. Whoever planned the attack ought to have known there were civilians nearby and ensured their safety. Having failed to do so, the military and political decision makers are liable for the children’s death.
On 23 March 2016, Civil Administration and military forces came to Khirbet Tana to the east of Beit Furik and demolished 17 homes, 21 livestock pens, and five outhouses, two of them donated by the European Union. The forces also blocked the entrances to five caves and demolished a water reservoir built with the assistance of a Palestinian association. Six of the residential tents demolished were donated by an international humanitarian aid organization. This is the third demolition operation in the village since the beginning of 2016. The acts of destruction left 85 people homeless, including 30 minors.
According to the media, two Palestinians were shot dead this morning after stabbing a soldier in Hebron. The soldier sustained medium-level injuries. Video footage shows one of the attackers lying on the road injured, with none of the soldiers or medics present attending to him. A soldier is then seen shooting him dead from close range. Extrajudicial killings are the direct result of inflammatory remarks by politicians and a public atmosphere of dehumanization. The message is clear: attempting to injure an Israeli means a death sentence.
On 22 March 2016, Israeli authorities demolished a family tent and livestock pens and confiscated a solar panel in the Palestinian communities of Khirbet Jenbah and a-Taban in Masafer Yatta. This came a day before the HCJ hearing in the principled petitions filed by residents against the declaration of the area as Firing Zone 918 in an attempt to expel them from their homes. These structures were apparently not included in the orders prohibiting further demolition, issued by the HCJ after previous demolitions in February.
Tomorrow, 23 March 2016, Israel’s High Court of Justice will hold a hearing on a petition filed by the residents of Masafer Yatta against the Israeli Authorities' intention to expel them from their homes due to the establishment of "Firing Zone 918." The hearing will be the first held in the case since the two-year mediation process between the parties failed. Immediately after the mediation attempts ended, Israel destroyed 22 homes in the communities of Khirbet Jenbah and Khirbet al-Halawah. Ahead of the hearing, we visited the communities to learn about their current reality and legal situation. We visited Khirbet Jenbah, Khirbet al-Fakhit, and Khirbet al-Mufaqarah, and looked out over Khirbet Bir al-‘Eid and illegal outposts Mitzpe Yair and Lucifer Farm.
Israeli human rights and civil society organizations condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing anonymous attacks against Palestinian human rights organizations, and most recently against Al-Haq. As Israeli organizations, we express our solidarity with our Palestinian counterparts. Al-Haq has indeed been faced with increasing pressure, which started with anonymous emails to staff and donors, citing non-existent fraud investigations, continued with daily calls from blocked numbers meant to intimidate the staff, and culminated in death threats to a staff member and to its General Director, Shawan Jabarin. These recent threats were directly connected to Al-Haq's ongoing work before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Last night the media reported that Taylor Force, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen, was killed and eleven people injured in a stabbing attack by a Palestinian. The assailant was shot dead by security forces. B’Tselem expresses deep sorrow over Taylor Force’s death and conveys its sincerest condolences to his family. B’Tselem sends its best wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded. 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 demand for work in the Gaza Strip is enormous, with an unemployment rate of some 40%. The major reason is the prolonged siege Israel has imposed on Gaza. To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke with three women – a carpenter, a blacksmith, and a vegetable market laborer – who are all trying to sustain families in this near-impossible economic reality. Gazan women face a particularly trying challenge, as they must deal not only with the dearth of work to match their skills, but also, like women around the world, with a society in which women are considered less valuable and work harder for lower pay.