In response to the MAG corps announcement detailing some of the investigations opened into "exceptional" cases during operation Protective Edge, B'Tselem stated that based on past experience, it isn't holding out hope that this process will lead to results other than a whitewash. B'Tselem announced this week that it will not assist the current military investigation mechanism, which currently amounts is nothing more than a masquerade and called for the establishment of an effective, transparent and impartial mechanism.
On 25 Aug. 2014, Israel declared some 380 hectares of West Bank land as state land – according to media reports, in retaliation for the abduction and killing of three Israeli youths in June. Not only is this prohibited collective punishment, but public land in the West Bank is supposed to serve Palestinians, not settlers. The location of the land suggests this move is meant to create territorial contiguity between Israel and nearby settlements, effectively erasing the Green Line. B’Tselem calls for immediate revocation of the declaration.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel violated international humanitarian law in some cases, and many other cases are highly suspect. However, B’Tselem does not intend to demand that these suspicions be investigated by Israel’s current investigation mechanisms. This is due to the experience that B’Tselem gained following past military offensives in the Gaza Strip, which shows that there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law.
B’Tselem and Yesh Din, the two leading Israeli human rights organizations in monitoring the investigations of offenses committed by security forces against Palestinians, find that the military law enforcement system is a complete failure. After examining the results of hundreds of investigations, the organizations assert that the existing investigation mechanism precludes serious investigations and is marred by severe structural flaws that render it incapable of conducting professional investigations.
B'Tselem, Anar Mammadli from Azerbaijan, and the Jesuit Refugee Service from Malta were announced today in Prague as the shortlisted candidates for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. The prize is awarded by the Council of Europe to organizations and individuals doing outstanding civil society work in defense of human rights in Europe and throughout the world. It is awarded annually during the plenary session of the Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation.
According to media reports, armed Hamas operatives killed over twenty Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for allegedly collaborating with Israel. Images of the executions were published in the media. According to media reports, since Thursday 21 August 2014, some 25 Palestinians were executed, including seven persons in a central square in Gaza City.
B'Tselem's board and staff send their sincere condolences to our colleague Issam Younis, director of al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, for the death of his father and his father's wife in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah, in the morning of 21 August 2014.
During the fighting in Gaza, dozens of residences were bombed while residents were at home. The following infographic lists members of families killed in their homes in 72 incidents of bombing or shelling. In these incidents, 547 people were killed, including 125 women under the age of 60, 250 minors, and 29 people over the age of 60. Mouse over the houses for more details. The figures B’Tselem collected regarding the number of Palestinians killed in the course of the fighting in the Gaza Strip are very preliminary, and are still being cross-referenced and checked.
On 16 Aug. settlers and Palestinians began throwing stones at each other behind the Beit Hadassah settlement in the city of Hebron. The settlers were throwing stones from a spot near a military guard post, yet the soldiers stationed there did nothing to stop them. Nonetheless, the soldiers used crowd control measures against the Palestinians who were throwing stones, and even detained two, one of them a boy. The military is duty-bound to take action to enforce the law on both parties. Refraining from action against violent settlers conveys a message that settlers may attack Palestinians and their property and get military protection to do so.
Last night (18 Aug.) the military demolished the homes of two of the suspects in the abduction and killing of the three yeshiva students, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, near Gush Etzion two months ago. The home of a third suspect was sealed. The homes were demolished after the HCJ denied three petitions filed by HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, leaving 23 innocent people, including 13 minors, without a roof over their heads. The HCJ's ruling is not surprising: for decades, the HCJ has denied the vast majority of the petitions filed against punitive house demolitions and refused to recognize the unlawfulness of this practice.
In a letter to B’Tselem and ACRI, Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber, has informed the organizations that the decision of the director of the National Civic Service Authority to stop allowing national civic volunteers to work with B’Tselem has been put on hold. Zilber said that the director would soon be summoned to the Justice Ministry to explain his decision and the circumstances under which it was made and that B’Tselem and ACRI would subsequently be informed of the final decision on this matter.
According to B'Tselem's initial figures, at least 1,767 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip and Israel from the time fighting began through 10 Aug. 2014. The fatalities include: 431 minors (one minor participated in the hostilities), 200 women (under age 60), 85 persons aged 60 and over. During the same period two Israeli civilians, one foreign national and 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Israel and the Gaza Strip. The figures B’Tselem collected regarding the number of Palestinians killed in the course of the fighting in the Gaza Strip are very preliminary and incomplete. In the months ahead, B’Tselem plans to further investigate the incidents.
Airstrikes on homes were central to Israel's military policy from the start of its latest operation in Gaza. Holding Hamas responsible for the heavy toll this policy took on civilians in Gaza is a faulty premise, both legally and morally. Hamas does indeed fire at Israeli civilians, operate from within the civilian population and conceal weapons at civilian sites. Hamas must be held accountable these violations of the law. Yet this responsibility does not absolve the Israeli government and senior military officers of responsibility for the consequences of Israel's own policy and actions.
Photos of the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Taken by Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem field researcher in Gaza, on 5 August 2014, in the course of the ceasefire. Whole sections of Beit Hanoun have been demolished, making it one of the hardest hit communities in the recent offensive, along with Gaza City, Beit Lahiya, Khuza’ah and Rafah. In the course of the fighting B’Tselem collected several testimonies from Beit Hanoun residents. Click here to view photos and read testimonies.
"I drove the second ambulance, and there were two medics with me. The street is only about 200-300 meters from the call center, so we were there within minutes. When we reached the entrance to the street, we were surprised to see three tanks and a military bulldozer in the street, about 100 meters away. Suddenly, with no warning, they opened heavy machine-gun fire at us. The bullets penetrated the ambulance. I tried to turn the ambulance around to get out of there, but the steering wheel must have been hit. Suddenly, I felt sharp pain in my leg and realized I'd been hit by a bullet or shrapnel. Then the windshield shattered. Because I couldn't turn the ambulance around, I decided to try reversing. They kept firing as I backed up, until we got far enough away."
We only took several steps when, suddenly, a missile was fired at us. It landed very close to me. It hit the photojournalist directly, killing killed him. A 25-year-old paramedic was hit in the back by shrapnel. [...] I started treating a little boy, about four years old, who had been hit in the leg by shrapnel. Then I treated another paramedic [...] When we got to the vehicles, we saw they'd been damaged by the bombing, too. [...] We were left with one ambulance and one civil defense vehicle. We got in with the injured child and Fares, the injured paramedic. We headed to the hospital in those two cars [...] Along the short distance I crossed, about 300 meters, I saw a woman and six or seven children lying dead. A few meters from there, I saw two dead men. Across the road, I saw a man, woman and two small children lying dead. They may have been from a single family.
On 6 August 2014, Attorneys Hagai Kalai and Gilad Barnea submitted B'Tselem's response to the attorney general’s position as presented to Israel’s HCJ earlier this week as part of the state’s response to the organization’s petition. B’Tselem’s response emphasizes that the existing rule clearly establishes that it is permissible “to broadcast a political advertisement provided that it concentrate solely on a factual message.” B’Tselem’s proposed radio spot meets these conditions. The Attorney General’s recommendation to change rules as B’Tselem’s radio spot awaits approval raises concern of improper discrimination.
"We heard an explosion nearby. [...] Then suddenly, my brother Ahmad and his wife Suha came in. They were in a panic. Ahmad said that their roof had been hit. I saw that Suha was very frightened. She was trembling. Ahmad asked us to get out of the house immediately. [...] Before we managed to get out, my mother said she wanted to use the toilet. [...] All of a sudden, I felt something pulling me into the house and everything collapsing on top of me. There was black smoke mixed with white dust. I felt I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I was buried in rubble."
"Our house is 200 meters from the northern border of the Gaza Strip. I don’t have young children but the situation on the moshav [farming community] is unbearable. The noise of the firing from both sides was horrendous. It was impossible to concentrate on anything. [...] My children last came to visit on Passover. While they were staying with us there was a Color Red alert. My grandchildren woke up while we were carrying them into the safe room, and ever since they won’t agree to come visit."
"On Friday, 18 July 2014, about two hours after we left our home in Beit Hanoun, I heard a loud explosion. A house nearby, about 30 or 40 meters from where we were staying, was hit. [...] I went outside and ran over to the house that had been bombed. A lot of neighbors came as well. We started carrying the wounded to ambulances, which arrived quickly. After we were done carrying everyone out, we found out the results of the shelling: eight family members were killed and four were injured. I found that I knew some the people who had been killed. I knew 'Abd a-Rahman Abu Jarad, his wife, Rajaa, and their two children, a 6-month-old baby and a 6-year-old boy."