Since 9 Oct. 2015 solidarity protests with West Bank Palestinians have been held in Gaza. B’Tselem found that 14 people have been killed and 379 wounded, mostly by live fire. Israeli soldiers stationed across the fence, dozens of meters away from protesters generally faced no mortal danger that would require use of live fire; they could have used crowd control measures instead. The large number of casualties indicates excessive use of live fire and raises concerns of unjustified, disproportionate and unlawful gunfire.
B’Tselem expresses its shock over Friday (13 November 2015) morning’s attack in which Rabbi Yaakov Litman and his son Netanel were killed and the mother and another son lightly injured, when Palestinians fired at the car carrying seven members of the Litman family through the South Hebron Hills. Three daughters suffered anxiety attacks. B’Tselem conveys its condolences to the family and strongly condemns any and all deliberate attacks on Israeli and Palestinian civilians. B’Tselem reiterates its call to politicians and leaders to act responsibly and refrain from stirring up violence.
In Aug. 2015, Israel renewed construction work on the Separation Barrier near the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, seizing private land and uprooting ancient olive trees. This creates facts on the ground although legal proceedings are still underway. The barrier will sever residents from their farmland, which provides vital income and rare recreation, block expansion of Beit Jala, damage ties with monasteries in the Cremisan Valley that service the community, and complete the effective annexation to Israel of large tracts of last.
After lengthy foot-dragging, the HCJ ruled on 8 Nov. 2015 that the State Attorney’s Office must file indictments against the two soldiers involved in killing Samir ‘Awad, 16, by the end of 2015 – almost 3 years after his death. This follows the announcement by the State Attorney’s Office’s it would indict the two for committing a “reckless and negligent act using a firearm”. The disparity between the grave action and the minor offense is outrageous, sending a message to security forces: even if you kill an unarmed Palestinian who poses no threat, we will cover it up.
Hebron residents are under increased travel restrictions since 29 Oct. Tel Rumeidah has been particularly affected: it was made off-limits to anyone not a neighborhood resident; locals may enter and exit only subject to strict screening. Palestinian stores in Hebron’s Old City are closed by military orders. These steps, alleged by the military to serve security, constitute collective punishment of Hebron residents, who are suspected of no wrongdoing, and must suffer serious disruptions to their daily lives, simply because of where they happen to live.
B’Tselem Executive Director El-Ad in an op-ed in +972 Magazine: Netanyahu recently proposed that Israel revoke the residency status of tens of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem who live beyond the Separation Barrier. This appalling idea will merely continue what is already in motion: years of ‘quiet transfer’ and a decade of isolating the Palestinian neighborhoods east of the Separation Barrier
On 2 Nov. 2015, the Civil Administration made 13 Palestinian families from Kh. Humsah in the northern Jordan Valley leave their homes due to military training nearby. A total of 86 people, including 48 minors, were told to vacate their homes from 6:30 A.M. to midnight. All 13 families live in the northern part of Kh. Humsah. The families took food and water and went with their flocks to areas far distant from their homes. They were informed that they would have to leave their homes three more times in the near future. This follows 11 previous instances of temporary displacement in 2015 because the military chose to train near their homes.
Since early Oct. the number of Palestinians shot by Israeli security forces at protests has risen sharply: five Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). A particularly high proportion of casualties in the Ramallah area were hit by live gunfire. In addition, military orders restricting gunfire to the lower extremities notwithstanding, many individual were hit in the upper body by rubber-coated metal bullets. All this suggests that security forces are responding with excessive force to protests and clashes.
Minister of Justice Shaked redefines cynicism when she cites “transparency” to camouflage her objective: defaming organizations critical of the Occupation and opposed to government policy. Even without this bill, B’Tselem gratefully makes public a list of its contributors. B’Tselem will carry on undaunted, exposing reality in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. If the minister of justice and the PM are so concerned over foreign intervention in Israeli politics, they ought to waive the millions the Likud and Jewish Home received for their primary elections from foreign business tycoons, constituting the overwhelming bulk of contributions.
B’Tselem Executive Director El-Ad in an op-ed in Israeli daily Haaretz: The political and legal systems have been thrown into turmoil by Supreme Court Justice Vogelman scheduling an emergency hearing on demolition of the homes of the families of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks. Yet all party to this round of legal-administrative brutality can breathe easy: demolitions were sanctioned, are sanctioned, will be sanctioned by the court. Then, a family – which no one claims is guilty of any wrongdoing – will find its home reduced to a pile of rubble, or poured full of concrete.
On 27 Oct. B’Tselem’s Hebron researcher Manal al-Ja'bri was injured documenting a protest. A rubber-coated metal bullet fired by Israeli security forces fractured a finger in her left hand. She was filming clashes between security forces and Palestinian youth near the Bab a-Zawiya Checkpoint, Hebron. Al-Ja'bri, in a blue B’Tselem vest, was standing with a group of journalists across the street and at a distance from the Palestinian stone throwers. There was no apparent reason for security forces to fire at her or at other journalists there.
On 6 Oct. 2015, soldiers assaulted Palestinian Ansar 'Asi, 25, while he was standing at the entrance to a storage room at his workplace in al-Bireh watching clashes between soldiers and Palestinian youths. The soldiers violently beat 'Asi and arrested him. The incident was captured on his employer's security cameras. 'Asi was injured and taken to Hadassah 'Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem. He was held in detention for two days before being interrogated. Police interrogators told him that soldiers had identified him as a stone thrower, refused to listen to his denial of the allegations, and made no attempt to check his version despite the existence of the footage. Only following a military court hearing did the police view the footage. Even then, 'Asi was held for another two days due to the weekend sabbatical.
On 11 Oct. 2015, the military bombed the Hassan family home in Gaza, destroying it and killing mother Nur, 25, who was at an advanced stage of pregnancy, and daughter Rahaf, 3. Muhammad, 5, and father Yihya, 25, were lightly injured. B’Tselem’s investigation refuted claims that the bombing targeted “weapon production sites” or that the house collapsed due to a strike on a nearby training camp. The case exemplifies the illegality of Israel’s policy of airstrikes in Gaza, which has killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians in recent years.
B’Tselem documented a five-day (6-10 Oct. 2015) campaign of violence by settlers against Palestinians in Hebron. Settlers repeatedly threw stones and bottles at Palestinian homes near the Kiryat Arba settlement fence, while Israeli security forces looked on. Settler violence intensified after two attacks by Palestinians in Hebron: a settler sustained serious injuries and a Border Police officer was slightly injured; one perpetrator fled, the other was shot to death. In another incident, a confrontation developed with settlers and Palestinians throwing stones at each other. Soldiers stood by the former and fired tear-gas at the latter. This glimpse of daily life in Hebron is an extreme example of the imbalance of power throughout the West Bank, in which Israeli forces back settler violence targeting Palestinians.
Since 14 Oct. 2015, security forces have implemented the closure policy approved by the Israeli cabinet. Thirty-five checkpoints and concrete roadblocks have been placed at entrances to villages and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and on internal roads, severely disrupting the lives of some 300,000 Palestinian residents. This constitutes the prohibited collective punishment of a population that lives under occupation and suffers ongoing violation of its rights. The vast majority of this population is not involved in attacks against Israelis.
In 13 incidents over the past two weeks, Palestinians were shot to death for stabbing or attempting to stab Israelis , or when suspected of doing so. In two of these cases, video footage published by the media raises grave concern that the security forces shot to kill even when it was clear that the Palestinians no longer posed a threat and could be apprehended in other ways. The wave of stabbing attacks against Israelis is shocking, and security forces must protect the public by apprehending Palestinians suspected of such actions. Security forces have the authority to use the minimal amount of force necessary to achieve that end, according to the circumstances, but law enforcement officers cannot act as both judges and executioners.
Since the beginning of the current wave of violence, there has been a worrying trend to use firearms to kill Palestinians who have attacked Israelis or are suspected of such attacks. Politicians and senior police officers have not only failed to act to calm the public climate of incitement, but on the contrary have openly called for the extrajudicial killing of suspects. No-one disputes the serious nature of the events, nor the need to protect the public. However, it seems that too often, instead of acting in a manner consistent with the nature of each incident, police officers and soldiers are quick to shoot to kill. The political and public support for such actions endorses the killing Palestinians in the Territories and in Israel.
On 12-13 Oct. 2015, the military forced ten Palestinian families from Kh. a-Ras al-Ahmar to vacate their homes for three hours each day so troops could train nearby. Pursuant to orders served on 8 Oct., the families were made to leave the area with their flocks for the duration of the training. These repeated short-term displacements cause unreasonable disruption to the lives of communities in the Jordan Valley. In some cases, residents have no alternative accommodation and must wait it out in the open, trying to find shelter, food and water in the harsh weather.
The Occupation is now in its 49th year. Recent weeks have seen dozens of horrific attacks on Israelis by Palestinians. Israeli government officials have been calling explicitly to “shoot to kill”; hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and several killed in demonstrations. B’Tselem reiterates its condemnation of attacks against civilians. The government sees the current violence as an eruption of hatred that occurred in a vacuum, while rejecting any responsibility of its own for the situation. Yet recent events cannot be viewed in isolation from the ongoing oppression of 4 million people.
Subsequent to the attack in which Palestinians killed Eitam and Naama Henkin, settlers attacked Palestinians and their property in many parts of the West Bank. Footage shows that soldiers were present at the scene throughout the incidents, but did not prevent attacks or arrest perpetrators. On the contrary, the soldiers accompanied settlers on their rampage, and used crowd-control weapons against Palestinian youth from the villages who threw stones at the settlers to push them back.