Today (Wednesday, 28 January 2015) B’Tselem published its report on the policy of attacking residential buildings in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The report addresses one of the appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives mirroring the devastation of their homes. Hamas made explicit its intention to harm civilians. In contrast, the Israeli government claimed that it acted to prevent harm to civilians in Gaza. Is that the case?
On 12 Jan. 2015, the Civil Administration ordered all 15 families in the al-Ka’abneh community to leave in 48 hours due to “recent incursion into state land”. Att. Shlomo Lecker filed an objection on behalf of the families, who have lived near Wadi Qelt since 1983, after twice being evicted from future settlement sites. The Administration must enable Bedouin communities to maintain their lifestyle, plan independently and build legally, as well as connect them to infrastructure and provide them with basic health and education services.
This morning, Civil Administration bulldozers demolished all structures in the tiny five-family Palestinian community in the northern Jordan Valley. This included the five tents in which the families live, rendering them homeless for the third time since January 2014. The previous demolitions took place in January and February 2014, and in April 2014 the authorities demolished some structures in the community.
Recent months have seen a dramatic rise in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets in clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets. The military commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai, confirmed that the military had adopted a policy of firing live ammunition at stone-throwers.
Day in and day out, the Palestinians of Khirbet Susiya see the solid, permanent housing of the settlement of Susiya (est. 1983). Although there has been a Palestinian village in the area since the 19th century, the Israeli military displaced the residents from the original site of the village, declaring it an archeological site, and does not allow any construction whatsoever in the present location. In the face of the raging winter storm, this injustice is more blatant than ever. This is what weathering the winter in Susiya is like, as in dozens of other Palestinian communities in Area C that Israeli authorities are trying to displace. Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem field researcher in the Southern Hebron Hills and a resident of Susiya filmed scenes from the storm.
On 1 Jan. 2015, with clear forecasts of an impending storm, the Israeli military and Civil Administration demolished the tents of five families in Khirbet Um al-Jamal, the Jordan Valley. Thirty individuals, including 22 minors, were left exposed to the elements, yet authorities did not arrange for alternate housing. The Red Crescent and the PA provided replacement tents, but these do not offer adequate shelter from the rain. Israeli human rights NGO MachsomWatch supplied plastic sheeting to weatherproof the tents. Last Feb. we reported the demolition of all structures in this community by Israeli authorities.
Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem field researcher in Gaza, has been hard at work documenting life amidst the ruins left in the wake of this summer’s fighting: “The fighting during the Operation Protective Edge made it practically impossible to get around Gaza to document events as they unfolded. For the past three months, B’Tselem’s 3 field researchers in Gaza have been carefully going through the Gaza Strip, following up on reports one neighborhood at a time, one house at a time. We take pictures of formerly vibrant, densely populated neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble. We meet people living amidst the ruins... (click to read more and view the photos)
2014 was a terrible year. It was one of the cruelest and deadliest in the history of the occupation. After so much killing, devastation, pain and suffering it is natural to want to “get back to normal”. We must not get back to normal. That “normal” is morally reprehensible. It is deadly, guaranteeing the very opposite of peace and justice. For the millions of Palestinians living under occupation, that “normal” means living a practically defenseless existence in the face of a constant threat of harm. Human rights violations must never become the norm – not after 47 years, not after one hundred.
On 23 Dec. 2014, a confrontation developed between Palestinians and soldiers near the Carmei Tzur settlement, which lies on land owned by Palestinians from nearby Beit Umar. Palestinians threw stones at soldiers, who responded with crowd control measures. An attack dog brought there by soldiers attacked a Palestinian teen, who was taken to hospital from there into custody. B’Tselem reiterates its demand that the military cease the reprehensible use of attack dogs.
B'Tselem's Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in an op-ed in +972 Magazine: A Jerusalem judge acquits an Israeli man who broke through an West Bank checkpoint into Palestinian-controlled territory, ruling it unacceptable for an Israeli citizen to be discriminated against on the basis of religion. (Arab — but not Jewish — citizens of Israel are allowed to enter Area A.) Yet the ruling is meaningless to the vast majority of West Bank residents who face discrimination on a daily basis.
Shuruq's home is one of 100,000 houses in Gaza that were ruined or damaged in Operation Protective Edge. The families who lived in them now live in rough, crowded conditions in the cold. She related: "For the first 7 years of our married life, we lived with my husband’s parents. We kept dreaming of building a home of our house so things would be calmer and easier for us. In 2012 we own to build a house on our plot... I felt I couldn’t go and look at what’s left of the house. I couldn’t bear to see how years of work went down the drain in a single moment."
On 11 Nov. 2014, a soldier shot and killed Muhammad Jawabreh at home in al-‘Arrub RC. The soldier was on a rooftop overlooking a spot where clashes were taking place, some distance from Jawabreh’s home. The circumstances raise grave suspicion of unlawful use of live fire. Jawabreh is the 44th Palestinian killed in the West Bank by Israeli security forces this year, yet soldiers and commanders are rarely held accountable. Policy makers in the government and military are responsible for allowing this ongoing disregard for Palestinian lives.
Tens of thousands of Gazan families are homeless, more than 3 months after Israel’s last operation there. In October 2014, the UN published that 20,000 homes of families were destroyed in the operation, and another 80,000 damaged. In the town of Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis and close to the border with Israel, hundreds were destroyed. Until last summer, the extended al-Qara family lived in a five-apartment building. It was destroyed in the fighting and they now live in two tents next to the ruins.
Geneva Convention High Contracting Parties call on Israel to respect the Convention, including in East Jerusalem. Through almost 50 years of occupation, Israel has brazenly breached the Convention, while benefitting from belonging to the “club” of signatories. Israel’s excuses for its breaches have been repeatedly rejected by experts and tribunals, and now, also by the Conference. The resolution reflects the illegality of the ongoing occupation and its attendant human rights violations, the baselessness of Israel’s claims of compliance with the Convention and Israel’s ever deteriorating international status as the violations persist.
Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint monitors passage of Palestinians from Tel Rumeidah to downtown Hebron. Its closure collectively punished hundreds for the actions of a few individuals. The checkpoint, like other restrictions on Palestinian movement in Hebron, serves no security purpose and is part of Israel’s separation policy in Hebron. The military must remove this and other unnecessary checkpoints in central Hebron. As long as the checkpoint remains, the military must enable regular passage and refrain from collective punishment.
“A friend told me ‘Alaa had been killed. He and his family had fled when the bombardment began and took cover in the hospital, but shells hit the hospital and ‘Alaa was hit by shrapnel in the abdomen and killed… My friends and I get together almost every day and remember ‘Alaa.” Operation Protective Edge ended over three months ago, but Gaza residents are still living with its aftermath. This account by Mu’taz is the third installment in the weekly series of voices from Gaza. Click here for the full account.
International Human Rights is observed today, 10 December. We’d like to take this opportunity to take a look at the past year through the photo blog we launched a year ago. All year long B’Tselem publishes investigative findings, updates, video footage and in-depth reports on a variety of human rights issues in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Our photo blog gives us a slightly different view of life there. The dozen photos we chose – a small selection of the images published– are a portrait of the past year as it was reflected in our photo blog.
Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein died today, Human Rights Day, after joining farmers in nonviolent protest against barred access to their land in the West Bank. While the circumstances of his death need clarifying, the reason for the protest and how Israeli security forces handle Palestinian protests are well-known. The state sends settlers to grab Palestinian land in the West Bank and then sends the army to forcefully silence protest – sometimes, at a lethal price. That is how Human Rights Day looks under occupation.
On 4 Dec. 2014 two settlers were driving near Wadi a-Nasara checkpoint when a Palestinian youth threw stones at them. They got out of the car and attempted pursuit. Footage by a B’Tselem camera volunteer shows that when the pursuit proved unsuccessful, they vandalized nearby Palestinian property. Police and soldiers who arrived at the scene did not detain the two and allowed them to leave unhindered. This incident is part of the reality of live in Hebron, with the military and the police standing by as settlers take the law into their own hands.
Images of people hard put to find adequate shelter in the recent heavy rainstorms serve as a reminder that Operation Protective Edge, which ended three months ago, continues to have serious consequences for life in Gaza. The following account by Shadi Barakeh is the second in a series of voices from Gaza that we will be presenting in the coming weeks. Shadi, 12, lost his father and his home in Operation Protective Edge. He now lives in an improvised tent with no facilities: “We have no happiness now… My mother cries for hours on end… It’s cold at night and I’m afraid when I hear dogs bark and the wind whistle.”