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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The authorities have begun demolishing structures in the village of Khirbet Jenbah, in the 918 Firing Zone, in the Southern Hebron Hills. This is following the termination of the arbitration process between the residents and the state.
Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, 33, has been on hunger strike for 65 days (as of 28 Jan) to protest his arrest. He has been in administrative detention for over a month. According to medical literature, his life is by now in danger. Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected Al-Qiq’s petition for release and refrained from determining, as yet, whether he should be released due to his medical condition. According to recent Israel Prison Service data, 527 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention – the highest figure since 2009.
Since the beginning of 2016 Israel has demolished eight Palestinian homes in the area defined as E1 and two homes in the South Hebron Hills, including one in Khirbet Susiya, where residents have struggled for years against expulsion and settler takeover. These demolitions serve Israel’s policy to create immutable facts on the ground ahead of any future agreement. This longstanding policy, which creates an impossible daily reality for Palestinians in Area C, constitutes forced transfer of protected residents within the occupied territory.
It was reported this morning that Shlomit Kriegman, 23, who was stabbed yesterday by a Palestinian in the settlement of Beit Horon, died of her injuries. According to the reports, two Palestinians came to Beit Horon yesterday and stabbed two women – Shlomit Kriegman, 23, and another woman aged 60 who was moderately injured. The two attackers were shot and killed by a security guard on the settlement and another armed civilian. B'Tselem wishes to express its profound sorrow on Shlomit Kriegman’s death and extends its condolences to her family and hopes for a speedy recovery to the other woman injured in the attack. Dliberate targeting of civilians undermines every moral, legal and human standard.
Judge finds that authorities failed to produce sufficient evidence that Nawaj’ah endangered a land dealer. Ofer Military Court yesterday (Jan. 24, 2016) ordered the release of B'Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj’ah, who was arrested on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 20, 2016) but delayed the execution of his decision for 24 hours in order to allow the police to appeal. The police announced this afternoon it will not pursue an appeal, which clears the way for his release in the coming hours.
Contempt of Court motion rejected today (22 Jan. 2016). Habeas corpus motion was now filed to the Israeli supreme court following the state violation of court's order to release B'Tselem's field worker unconditionally. Despite the order, he was transferred to a military court in the West Bank.
Since early October 2015, the military has imposed broad restrictions on Palestinian movement in central Hebron, preventing residents from maintaining a reasonable routine. The military has blocked the entrances to some streets in the Old City, closed the Tel Rumeidah neighborhood to non-residents, introduced stricter inspections at 16 existing checkpoints, and established new checkpoints. Passersby are subjected to repeated and lengthy inspections and residents report that they feel imprisoned, leaving home only for work and studies.
Today, Jerusalem District Court Judge, Moshe Yoed Hacohen, ordered the unconditional immediate release of B'Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj'ah, who was arrested by the police on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. However, the Israeli police violated the court order and told his counsel that he had been taken to the military court at Ofer Camp, which remanded him to custody until Sunday.