In its 2012 report, published 19 May 2013, the Freedom of Information Unit in Israel’s Ministry of Justice noted, “We found one unit, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), institutionally wanting in upholding the Freedom of Information Law – a finding that has been reinforced by court appeals and rulings.” This parallels B’Tselem’s experience, for example in its 23 December 2012 request to the Civil Administration regarding demolition orders and building permits. The Civil Administration repeatedly delayed its response, forcing B’Tselem to take legal action. Finally, after six months, on 9 June 2013, the Civil Administration provided a partial response.
The military court trial of Nariman a-Tamimi and Rana Hamadah, two Palestinian women arrested at a non-violent demonstration in a-Nabi Saleh, will begin on 9 July 2013. This legal action is unprecedented, as there is no charge of violence. Moreover, the prosecution acknowledged it wishes to prevent the women from demonstrating – unacceptable grounds for arrest. B’Tselem: “The military prosecution’s handling of the matter, and particularly its unprecedented request to remand non-violent demonstrators for the duration of legal proceedings, raises the suspicion that the military might be exploiting these proceedings to keep Nariman a-Tamimi from carrying on her joint activity with her husband, Bassem, in a-Nabi Saleh’s struggle against the village being dispossessed of its land.”
Palestinians holding permits may enter Israel through any of eleven checkpoints. Last month, B’Tselem staff visited two checkpoints and documented the harsh conditions there. In order to reach work on time, laborers have to wait in line for hours, from the middle of the night, and undergo humiliating inspections. This reality is not a necessary evil but the result of a policy by the Ministry of Defense. The ministry must adjust the conditions at checkpoints to accommodate the number of Palestinians who are issued work permits by the Civil Administration, and it must ensure that the laborers can enter Israel without violation of their human dignity.
In the middle of the night of 14 May 2013, Israeli policemen surrounded the home of Khader Sharif of Beit Ula, and ordered him to come out. Sharif, who had undergone surgery for a leg broken in a work accident, had not yet fully recovered and was using crutches. Sharif reported that as the policemen forced him into a vehicle, his injured leg collided with a step and suffered a new fracture. Nevertheless, the policemen hauled him from one police station to another, all the while treating him violently and disparagingly and refusing him medical attention. Sharif was finally released around noon, once questioning showed he could not have committed the alleged theft. He was let out at Tarqumya checkpoint, having received no medical treatment in breach of police directives.
On 1 June 2013, Israeli soldiers arrived at the village of Kafr Qadum and put up posters displaying photographs of minors and a threat that the minors would be captured on sight. B’Tselem and ACRI wrote to the Legal Adviser to Judea and Samaria demanding immediate action to put an end to such posters. The organizations stated that putting up the posters severely infringes the minors’ right to privacy, dignity and due process, as well as the right to free speech and protest of all the village residents.
Prominent Israeli writers Zeruya Shalev, Eyal Megged, Sayed Kashua and Alona Kimhi visited the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank yesterday. The writers met with the Palestinian residents of the village of Jenbah, who told them about the reality of their lives and the danger they face of being expelled from the site, which the military has declared “Firing Zone 918”.
The planned route of the Separation Barrier around the village of al-Walajah will sever the Hajajleh family from the rest of the village. In 2010, the Civil Administration informed the family that their home would remain on the other side of the barrier, that it would be enclosed by a wire fence and linked to the rest of the village through an underground passageway. After the Hajajlehs petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice, the State agreed, in lieu of surrounding the house with a wire fence, to close the underground passageway with a gate that only members of the family would be allowed to cross without prior coordination. Once the Separation Barrier around al-Walajah is completed, the Hajajleh home will be isolated and the family will be denied the possibility of normal daily life.
Yesterday, 22 June 2013, Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip executed two Palestinian men sentenced to death by the military court in Gaza: ‘Imad Mahmoud Ibn Ghalyun, 49, Hussein Yusef al-Khatib, 43. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza, 15 people have been executed. B’Tselem condemns the use of capital punishment, which is both immoral and a grave violation of human rights. The state may not take a person’s life and violate that person’s right to life as a punitive measure, even if it is ostensibly for the purpose of law enforcement.
B’Tselem CCTV footage of masked settlers setting fire to a tool-shed in the village of ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, in the northern West Bank on 18 June 2013. Settlers claimed responsibility for the arson in a report published in a settler website. B’Tselem demands a Police investigation to apprehend the perpetrators, as well as a military inquiry into whether soldiers were on duty at the nearby post - located just some 200 meters from the shed - while the attack took place and, if so, why they did not apprehend the perpetrators.
According to B’Tselem’s inquiry, on 15 May 2013, two Palestinians trying to enter Israel through a breach in the Separation Barrier were attacked by dogs, allegedly on soldiers’ orders. B’Tselem applied to the MAG Corps demanding an investigation of the attack and the allegation that the soldiers had used excessive force in arresting the men. B’Tselem also wrote to the Legal Adviser in Judea and Samaria demanding that the use of attack dogs against unarmed civilians be prohibited. No response has been received to date.
B’Tselem has written to the Legal Adviser in Judea and Samaria demanding that he prohibit the use of attack dogs against Palestinian civilians. The letter follows a recent incident in which two Palestinians trying to enter Israel for work were attacked. B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell wrote that “setting dogs on civilians under such circumstances is inherently wrong and immoral. This use of dogs is dangerous in that they cannot be kept fully under control. It intimidates the population at large and has already caused severe harm to civilians.”
On Sunday, 26 May 2013, the military came to the home of the ‘Awads in Budrus to arrest ‘Abd a-Rahim ‘Awad. A younger son, Samir, had been killed by Israeli soldiers in January. In the course of the arrest, soldiers used force against ‘Abd a-Rahim and his family. The military stated that the family had violently resisted the arrest and that the soldiers’ response was “minimal”. To justify the soldiers’ behavior, the military released an edited video clip showing a small part of the incident. B’Tselem’s research indicates that, contrary to the military’s version, the soldiers acted violently from the very start, even before the family had a chance to resist. When ‘Abd a-Rahim’s family tried to protect him, the soldiers responded with violence and also heavily damaged the house.
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60% of the West Bank is designated Area C, under exclusive Israeli control. It is home to 180,000 Palestinians and includes most West Bank land reserves. Israel, citing “state lands” or “firing zones”, largely prohibits Palestinian construction. Israel’s planning policy ignores local needs: refuses to recognize villages or draft plans; blocks development and infrastructure hook-ups; and demolishes homes. Thousands are in danger of expulsion for living in firing zones or “illegal” communities. Israel has appropriated most water sources and restricts Palestinian access to them.
In September 2012, Israel’s Public Defender's office published a report on the isolation of inmates in Israeli prisons. The report criticized the isolation of minors and called for this measure to be restricted or limited in scope. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) provided B’Tselem with figures indicating that, from Jan. 2007 to 28 April 2013, 5,602 inmates were held in isolation, among them 1,493 Palestinians. Of these, 244 were minors, including 76 teenagers who were held in isolation on 100 separate occasions. The international standards set by the UN absolutely forbid holding minors in isolation.
In recent months, B’Tselem staff and volunteers have captured on video several incidents in which settlers attacked Palestinians or damaged their property in the presence of security forces. Most of the incidents described here occurred following the stabbing to death of Yitzhar resident Evyatar Borovsky on 30 April 2013. The other two incidents occurred at other times and in different areas in the West Bank. B’Tselem wrote to the law enforcement authorities demanding investigations of the settlers’ violence and the security forces’ conduct in these incidents. In addition, B’Tselem wrote to OC Central Command demanding that he ensure adequate preparation of the forces for future incidents of settler violence.
The Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU) will investigate a serious incident in which soldiers and Border Policemen beat a Palestinian youth while arresting him. The incident was captured by a security camera of the Ofra settlement, but the camera operators diverted the camera from the violent scene, apparently so as to avoid documenting it, and the video footage of the arrest was not transferred to the detainee’s defense attorney for nearly a month, during which time the youngster was held in detention. The MPIU only notified B’Tselem today that an investigation is to be opened, after the organization wrote urgently yesterday to demand investigation into the violent arrest and into suspicions of disruption of proceedings and failure to report a crime by the persons involved in the filming or persons who knew of it.
Some 511 Gazan men, including 14 minors, are currently being held as prisoners and detainees in Israel. In July 2012, after a five-year hiatus, family visits to Gazan inmates in Israel were resumed. From that time until 22 April 2013, most of the inmates have received visits. Israel permits inmates to be visited by their parents, wives and children under eight years old; children over eight, siblings and grandparents are not allowed to visit. Permission for children under the age of eight to visit their imprisoned fathers was granted only in May 2013. B’Tselem calls upon the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to allow all first-degree relatives, including children of all ages, to visit Gazans being held in Israel.
On Tuesday, 21 May 2013, the IDF spokesperson and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announced that the prime minister and the minister of defense had authorized the IDF to extend the fishing range in the Gaza Strip from three to six nautical miles. This decision comes after two months during which the range had been reduced in the wake of missile fire from Gaza into Israel. Reduction of the fishing range in response to missile fire constitutes collective punishment which is prohibited by international law and also severely harms fishermen’s livelihood.
On 9 September 2012 B’Tselem contacted the Dept. for the Investigation of Police (DIP) demanding an investigation of Border Police officers who allegedly assaulted Sa’id Qiblawi, 14. According to testimonies B’Tselem collected, Qiblawi was arrested near his home by Border Police who were being stoned. A policeman dragged Qiblawi along the ground and put him into a jeep, where he was beaten. On 2 May 2013 the DIP informed B’Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was closed for lack of evidence. B’Tselem applied to the DIP on behalf of the complainant’s family, requesting the investigative material in order to explore the option of appealing the closing of the case.