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.
In the first week of March, authorities demolished 17 dwellings, 19 livestock pens, and a school in two Jordan Valley communities, rendering 64 people - incl. 28 minors - homeless. These actions are a direct continuation of the unusually massive demolition campaign authorities launched in Palestinian shepherding communities across the West Bank. Since Jan., authorities have dismantled and demolished 203 structures, including 105 dwellings, in communities threatened with expulsion; 435 people, including 234 minors, lost their homes. This consistently applied government policy constitutes the forced transfer of protected Palestinian residents in an occupied area.
According to Israel Prison Service figures, the last quarter of 2015 saw a marked rise in the number of Palestinians in Israeli custody, including administrative detainees, women and minors: at the end of 2015, 6,066 Palestinians were being held on security grounds, the highest number since July 2010. This includes 584 administrative detainees - the most since September 2008; 422 minors - the most since August 2008 at the latest, and 44 women - the most since September 2009.
On 9 Feb. 2016, D.W., 12, was detained at the entrance to the settlement of Carmei Tzur while carrying a concealed knife. D. signed a plea bargain and was convicted of attempted manslaughter and sentenced to imprisonment for 4½ months. She was completely alone during the trial and the prosecution was not required to present any evidence. Though exceptional, this case illustrates the manner in which the military judicial system tramples defendants’ rights. Instead of ensuring that justice is done, this system seeks to preserve the occupation regime.
On 23 Feb. 2016 the military demolished the homes of two families in the Hebron area as punishment for attacks for which individual members of the families have been indicted. The demolitions - which left 15 people homeless, including 9 minors, none of whom are suspected or accused of any wrongdoing - were implemented after the HCJ rejected petitions filed in the matter by the families and HaMoked. Since Oct. 2015 Israel has stepped up punitive home demolitions, a policy the HCJ approves virtually without restriction. Such conduct cannot be considered more than lip service to the notion of judicial review.
This morning, 29 February 2016, Civil Administration (CA) and military personnel arrived at the community of Khallet Khader in the region of al-Farisiyah in the northern Jordan Valley. They demolished five dwelling tents, which were home to 19 people, including five minors. They also demolished three livestock pens in use by Khallet Khader families. The tents had been given to the families by the Red Cross after the CA demolished 21 structures in the community on 11 February 2016. The community of Khallet Khader is located in the region of al-Farisiyah, which the military had termed a firing zone, and near the settlements of Shadmot-Mehola and Rotem. The community’s residents are farmers and they raise goats and sheep. Some families live on site only for certain seasons of the year.
Bab al- Majles is a neighborhood in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. Once a rich cultural and social hub, a major route crossed by Muslim worshippers on their way to al-Aqsa Mosque, the neighborhood has been under a chokehold since the police put up a checkpoint at its entrance in the summer of 2014, imposing severe access restrictions, which severely harmed residents’ lives and livelihoods. This is collective punishment of the entire neighborhood. Israel must remove the checkpoints and allow residents to resume their normal lives.
Yoav Gross, Director of B’Tselem’s Video Department, visited Bab al-Majles with Mus’ab ‘Abbas, our field researcher in East Jerusalem. He took pictures of what life is like under the severe restrictions imposed on the neighborhood.
Additional demolitions since we reported the early 2016 demolition campaign: On Feb. 20, Israeli authorities confiscated two large caravans used for expanding the Abu a-Nuwar school, where some children study in other communities due to overcrowding. On Feb. 15, 32 structures, including 10 homes were demolished in Ein a-Rashash, leaving dozens homeless. These demolitions and confiscations are part of an unusually massive demolition campaign the Israeli authorities launched in Palestinian shepherding communities in the West Bank in Jan. 2016.
Sleep deprivation; prolonged binding; verbal and sometimes physical abuse; exposure to heat and cold; poor, meager food; small, foul-smelling cells; solitary confinement; unhygienic conditions. A new report by HaMoked and B’Tselem shows these to be standard in interrogations at Israel Security Agency’s (ISA) facility at Shikma Prison. The report is based on affidavits and testimonials by 116 Palestinians interrogated there from Aug. 2013 to March 2014, including at least 14 who had been interrogated under torture by the Palestinian Authority shortly before. The ISA’s interrogation system is run with the approval of Israeli authorities, including the High Court of Justice.
In at least four cases, the lethal gunfire was entirely unwarranted: In Dec. 2015-Jan. 2016 five Palestinians were shot dead by the military near the Gaza perimeter fence, when protests were underway there. B’Tselem documented 14 similar cases in Oct. and Nov. 2015. B’Tselem found that in 4 of the killings the use of live fire was unjustified, excessive and unlawful. B’Tselem’s examination of the military’s conduct during demonstrations near the perimeter fence repeatedly indicates that though the military prepares in advance and the soldiers face no real danger, they resort to lethal fire without any justification, and no one is held accountable for these actions.
In a letter sent today to the Prime Minister, Hagai Elad criticizes the HCJ ruling rejecting al-Qiq’s request to transfer to a Ramallah hospital. The HCJ justices argued that if the security establishment sought to detain al-Qiq again in the future, this would endanger soldiers’ lives. Elad notes that “This position reflects a new low in the instrumentalist approach to human beings.” The fact that the Court accepted this argument says more about the justices than about its reasonableness.
As of Jan. 2016 Israeli authorities stepped up efforts to expel Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, Ma’ale Adumim area and the Jordan Valley, demolishing 73 homes and 51 other structures, some donated by aid agencies. Israel recently announced plans to demolish many more structures in Kh. Susiya, expel Abu a-Nuwar’s residents, and reported its failed mediation with Masafer Yatta. All are part of a policy whereby Area C is to serve Israel rather than West Bank Palestinians. Restrictions Israel imposes in Area C force all West Bank Palestinians to live in crowded enclaves without land reserves for building, farming, infrastructure, health and education services or freedom of movement.
Over three days during the past week, the authorities demolished 22 dwellings in the Jordan Valley, along with 41 other structures used for storage and livestock, leaving 59 people, including 28 minors without a roof over their heads.
In mid-Jan, 24 Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley were informed they would be temporarily displaced at month’s end for military training in the area. The evacuation was cancelled due to weather conditions, but the military did conduct training very close to one community, causing panic among residents, especially children, and crushing crops. Military training in the Jordan Valley is illegal. Israel must immediately stop it and all other measures employed in an attempt to force Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley out of the area.
On 4 Feb. 2016 the High Court of Justice “suspended” the administrative detention of Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for 72 days. This vague decision is essentially meaningless: The ruling states that his relatives may visit him in hospital in Israel, but does not oblige Israel to issue them entry permits. Administrative detention orders are subject to judicial review, but the courts usually approve the orders, rarely questioning the security establishment’s position. Even so, in view of al-Qiq’s condition, the HCJ’s evasive legal solution and the refusal to rescind the order are extreme.
In December 2015, Gazan farmers reported that Israel had sprayed their land with herbicides, seriously damaging crops in areas where farmers were supposedly permitted to work. The military frequently changes the scope of the “no-go” zone by the border fence, but does not bother to mark it or inform farmers. Israel cannot treat the Gaza Strip as its part of its territory and ignore the residents. If the military believes that there is a need for a “security zone” along the border, it must establish this zone within Israeli territory.
On 4 Feb. 2016, Civil Administration (CA) officials came to the Palestinian community of al-Mkassar in the northern Jordan Valley with bulldozers and a military escort. They proceeded to demolish four tents that were home to two families – a total of 19 people, including 12 minors and eight livestock pens. These families had already lost their homes in a previous demolition in June 2015. Later that the day, CA and military forces came to the community of Khirbet Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, where they dismantled and confiscated two tents that were home to a family of 8, including 6 minors. The tents were donated to the family after their two previous tents were demolished about two weeks ago, on 20 Jan. 2016.
Yesterday, 2 Feb. 2016, Israeli authorities demolished a total of 22 homes in two Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, leaving 110 people, including 64 minors, homeless in mid-winter. The communities lie in an area declared by the military as Firing Zone 918. This comes immediately after the end of unsuccessful mediation between Israeli authorities and the communities, which now plan to renew their legal battle against attempts to expel them from their land.