B’Tselem recorded 5 fatalities and 55 injuries recently, all of Palestinian uninvolved in hostilities near the Gaza perimeter fence. Although the military refuses to publish the relevant open-fire regulations, statements by officials indicate the possibility that lethal fire might be permitted even in cases of civilians who pose no danger. As Gazans use the area near the fence for various civilian needs, it cannot be regarded exclusively as a combat zone. The military must institute open-fire regulations that take this reality into account.
On Fridays in recent months, youths have been frequenting an area east of Jabalya RC, a rare open space in the congested Gaza Strip. Some stroll or rest. Others come to demonstrate, burn tires or throw stones at the perimeter fence. Several times Molotov cocktails were lobbed at the fence and its patrol. Soldiers positioned on the Israeli side of the perimeter fence use various measures – from tear-gas to live ammunition – to get the youths to back away from the fence. B'Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah documented the scene.
“No child should have to be afraid to drink a glass of water lest there be none tomorrow. These are my difficulties. These are my children’s fears.” Thus B’Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj'ah concluded his open letter in Haaretz to Minister Naftaly Bennett. The inequity of water supplied to Israelis versus Palestinians came up for discussion in Knesset last week. Consequntly, we posted precise figures regarding water consumption in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We invite you to take a look at the situation yourself.
Gaza has been suffering a severe water crisis for years, due to contamination of its main water source – the coastal aquifer – by over-pumping and lack of proper sewage treatment. Residents buy drinking water from wastewater treatment plants as over 90% of the aquifer's water is un-potable, a number expected to reach 100% by 2016. UNEP has called on Israel, the PA, Hamas and Egypt to take immediate action on the matter. Meanwhile, Israel must allow into Gaza materials and equipment needed to restore and develop its sewage treatment infrastructure.
On 20 Dec. 2013 soldiers shot and killed ‘Odeh Hamad while he and his brother Radad were collecting scraps at the Beit Hanoun garbage dump. Radad, who reported hearing no warning beforehand, ran for help. While Hamad lay injured, soldiers just across the fence offered him no medical assistance, nor did they help the paramedics locate him. He was found after a half hour-long search and died shortly after reaching hospital. B’Tselem documented similar incidents at the same site, including four in the last 18 months in which civilians were injured.
The picturesque sight of Gaza’s fishing harbor is misleading. The boats are out of commission and the docks deserted. The Israeli military restricts fishing range to a mere six nautical miles off Gaza's shore. Any fishermen who venture beyond this limited range risk being shot at, arrested, and having boats and fishing gear confiscated. In addition, lately Gaza has been experiencing a severe fuel shortage, ever since Egypt demolished tunnels on its border. This means that fishermen cannot afford the fuel necessary for running their boats, bringing the fishing industry to a standstill.
Nibal Mghari, who lives in Gaza with her husband and children, and her mother, who lives in Jenin, describe the pain and longing of being cut off from each other. A report by HaMoked and B’Tselem explores Palestinians’ right to family life in view of Israel’s isolationist policy, which practically prohibits passage between Gaza and the West Bank, thereby severing families and keeping tens of thousands of people from living normally. Basic features of life–building a family, living with one’s spouse and children and regular contact with the extended family–become a pipedream.
The report explores Palestinians’ right to family life in view of Israel’s isolationist policy, which practically prohibits passage between Gaza and the West Bank, thereby severing families and keeping couples from living normally, if one spouse is from Gaza and the other from the West Bank. Tens of thousands face this impossible reality, whereby Israel intrudes on the most intimate aspects of life. Basic features of life–building a family, living with one’s spouse and children and regular contact with the extended family–become a pipedream.
Since it imposed a siege on Gaza in 2007, Israel has allowed almost no construction supplies into Gaza, with the exception of supplies for international projects. The construction sector relied on materials brought in from Egypt through tunnels. After Egyptian President Morsi was overthrown, Egyptian security forces demolished many tunnels, and only three are currently operating. As a result, construction has ground to a halt in Gaza, leaving thousands unemployed. As the land crossings with Israel are now the only route for importing construction materials, the construction needs of the 1.7 million residents of Gaza are not being met. Israel, whose responsibility is heightened by this reality, must instate a new policy that takes into account the needs of Gazan’s residents, not only Israel’s security needs.
B’Tselem's initial inquiries indicates toddler Hala Abu Sbeikhah was killed yesterday after an Israeli tank fired three shells at her home. Hala’s aunt and two young cousins sustained injuries. Deliberate firing at a home occupied by civilians, without warning the inhabitants and ensuring they have vacated the premises, as appears to be the case in this situation, is unlawful. The military must immediately investigate the incident. Israeli military additionally closed Kerem Shalom Crossing, barring agricultural export and necessary fuel imports in a measure which constitutes collective punishment.
After Operation Pillar of Defense (Nov. 2012), an understanding was reached whereby Israel would ease restrictions on Palestinian access to farmland near the border. Previously, access to those areas–a third of Gaza Strip farmland–was strictly restricted, including by the use of live fire. B'Tselem has found that the military still limits access and does so with live fire. Israel must lift these restrictions, enabling farmers to work their land. As long as the restrictions remain, the military must refrain from using live fire to enforce them.
Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, a B’Tselem field researcher in the Gaza Strip, continues to bring us his personal Gaza: Last episode, I turned the camera inwards and looked at my home, my family, my local coffee shop. This time, we’ll go outside for a bit and visit my nephew Muamen. He and his friends are recent university graduates, but instead of finding jobs and joining the workforce, they’ve joined the most frustrated class of people in Gaza, the unemployed. Unemployment in Gaza among people under 30 is as high as 45%. Or as Muamen calls them, the “bummer generation”.
Since the Disengagement, Israel has retained control over all access points to and from Gaza, with the exception of Rafah Crossing. Israel prohibits air or sea travel to and from Gaza, and prohibits Palestinian travel from Israeli airports. The disruption of the right of movement of Gazans has worsened since July due to restrictions imposed by Egypt at Rafah. Israel’s control over most access to Gaza means it is responsible for enabling Gazans to fulfill their right to freedom of movement, subject to individualized security inspections.
On Wednesday, 2 Oct. 2013, Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip executed Hani 'Alayan, 27. 'Alayan was sentenced to death in 2012 for two counts of murder, one of them committed while he was a minor. His sentence was upheld in appeal on 12 July 2013. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza, 16 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.
40,000 to 50,000 individuals currently live in the Gaza Strip without ID cards recognized by Israel, nor do they have any official status elsewhere in the world. Some of them were born in the Gaza Strip but were never recognized as residents by Israel: some fled the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war, or left Gaza for various reasons after 1967 and later returned. A small number were born in the Gaza Strip and have never left it, but do not have ID cards for various reasons. Israel, which still controls the Palestinian Population Registry, must allow all stateless individuals in Gaza to obtain status.
On 9 July 2013, the High Court of Justice dismissed a petition demanding that the Israeli military cease all use of white phosphorous in civilian areas. The petition, filed by Advocates Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer on behalf of 117 petitioners, including human rights organizations, was dismissed after Israel pledged to stop using white phosphorus, with the exception of two classified conditions. Despite dismissing the petition, the justices did order the military to reconsider the use of white phosphorous. The military's pledge is a step in the right direction. However, given that under international humanitarian law the use of white phosphorous in the present setting of the Gaza Strip is unlawful, and considering its horrific results, B'Tselem demands that the military prohibit all use of white phosphorous in densely populated civilian areas, such as the Gaza Strip.
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.
After several months of field research and crosschecking data, human rights organization B’Tselem published a report today (Thursday, 9 May 2013) reviewing harm to civilians in Operation Pillar of Defense. The report provides statistics on the numbers of Palestinians and Israelis killed over the course of the operation, which lasted from 14 to 21 November 2012. The report challenges the common perception in the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, the report finds that there was a significant difference between the first and the final days of the operation: of the uninvolved Palestinian fatalities, 80% were killed in the last four days of the operation.
On 21 March 2013 the IDF spokesperson announced that the Israeli military will once again reduce the permitted fishing range in the Gaza Strip from six nautical miles to three (approximately 5.5km), in response to missile fire by armed Palestinian groups towards the south of Israel on Thursday morning. The reduction constitutes collective punishment and severely damages the livelihood of Gaza fishermen .B'Tselem calls on the military to rescind its latest decision and the restrictions imposed on fishermen in the Gaza Strip in the past years, and to permit fishing in the 20 miles range, as was set under the Oslo Agreements.