For 2.5 weeks, beginning in late Jan. 2017, the military blocked all vehicular access to and from the Palestinian village of ‘Azzun, as collective punishment for incidents of stone throwing, Molotov-cocktail hurling, and live fire at a major road nearby. The justifications given by the military are unfounded: blocking all traffic is not a relevant security measure - it is designed to pressure residents into taking action within the community to stop these incidents - nor is it an exception to the military’s longstanding policy and actions in the West Bank.
Restriction of movement
Today, 13 February 2017, B’Tselem released a new interactive documentary entitled “The Invisible Walls of Occupation”. Viewers are invited on a virtual tour of the Palestinian village of Burqah, a rural suburb of the city of Ramallah that has become cut off from its urban center through various restrictions imposed by Israel. The documentary has Burqah residents leading viewers on a virtual tour of their village. The project depicts the story of the village and illustrates various aspects of Palestinians’ daily life under occupation. The project was co-produced by B’Tselem and Canadian digital studio Folklore, and is based on a B’Tselem report by the same name.
In Jan. B’Tselem documented two nighttime incidents of soldiers entering homes in Kafr Qadum, a village west of Nablus: They threatened residents and warned them not to attend the weekly village protests which have been held since 2011 when the road linking the village to Nablus was transferred to the exclusive use of settlers. B’Tselem found that the soldiers acted violently and aggressively, threatened children, and shoved an elderly woman. Such threats violate the right of expression, protest, and demonstration. They are unlawful and must be halted immediately.
In November 2016, a fire broke out near the Halamish settlement, apparently due to arson. Although the Palestinian residents of nearby Deir Nizam were accused of nothing, the military put the village under unofficial closure for 3 days and has restricted movement to and from it ever since. Soldiers patrol the village almost daily, resulting in clashes with youngsters. The disruption of daily life and violation of the residents’ rights for two months now constitute wrongful collective punishment.
On 10 Nov. 2016 soldiers shot A.Z., 15, injuring him in the hand and thigh, after he threw a stone at their fortified watchtower and threw down ground sandbags located there. The military took A.Z. to hospital in Israel without informing his parents. He was held under military guard there for four days, incl. three during which his legs were shackled. A police investigator questioned him without the presence of any adult on his behalf. Minors are entitled to special protection by law, common sense and moral values. This right was grossly violated in this case, as in countless others.
On Sunday 8 Jan. 2017 Fadi al-Qunbar, 28, of Jabal al-Mukabber, carried out a ramming attack at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem, killing 4 soldiers and injuring 13. Israeli authorities have since adopted punitive measures against his extended family and other locals. Collective punishment and administrative measures against Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are an acknowledged Jerusalem Municipality policy and the mayor boasts of it. While the policy is overt, this does nothing to detract from its being wrongful and involving widespread persecution by the authorities of thousands of Jerusalem residents.
A short documentary by Helen Yanovsky, “The Boy from H2” - created in collaboration with B’Tselem’s field researchers and Camera Project volunteers in Hebron, and produced by B’Tselem’s video department - will premiere at the 67th Berlinale as part of the Berlinale Shorts competition. The documentary follows 12-year-old Muhammad Burqan, who lives in Area H2 of Hebron, a section of the city under full Israeli control.
B’Tselem mapped the processes underway in Batan al-Hawa, which is facing the most extensive dispossession in East Jerusalem in recent years. Israeli authorities have already transferred 9 of its roughly 50 parcels to the Ateret Cohanim association, and settlers have moved in to 5. Eviction claims are pending against 81 Palestinian families who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Residents are also subjected to other types of pressure. Settler presence brings with it the police, the Border Police and private security guards; they regularly use violence against local residents, including live fire and crowd control measures, threats, arresting minors and disrupting the fabric of life.
Since Sept. some 220 Palestinians (incl. about 100 minors) have been forced to leave their homes in the Jordan Valley on multiple occasions to make way for military training. Families from Ibziq, Khirbet Humsah and Khirbet a-Ras al-Ahmar have had to spend hours on end, or even all night, far from home and exposed to the elements. The frequency of these displacements completely disrupts residents’ lives and jeopardizes the very existence of these communities. As an occupying power, Israel cannot use the land for routine military purposes, harm the livelihood of protected persons on this pretext, or attempt to expel the residents.
The Batan al-Hawa neighborhood in East Jerusalem is densely built; its streets are narrow alleys, often only 2-3 meters wide. Local Palestinians told B’Tselem that they have found it hard to maintain a normal routine ever since settlers moved in in 2004. A shuttle service used by settlers and security guards blocks the street several times a day, for 15 minutes to an hour at a time, even though settlers have use of an adjacent parking they seized. The conduct of the settlers and private security guards, backed by official Israeli security personnel, makes it difficult for residents to get to work and school on time, and for businesses to get supplies.
According to WHO figures for Jan.-Oct. 2016, cancer patients filed 7,267 applications for entry permits; 2,042 applications have either been denied or have yet to be answered. Israel retains significant control over Gaza, so that the development of Gaza health services or even obtaining treatment outside Gaza still depend on Israel. Yet Israel both imposes restrictions that hinder development of the local system and limits the number of patients it allows to exit Gaza for treatment in Israel or the West Bank. Although many patients cannot obtain satisfactory treatment in Gaza, Israel severely limits the number of entry permits it issues, a number it has further reduced since Operation Protective Edge.
The report B’Tselem published today shows how Israel has been taking over Palestinian rural space, fragmenting it, dispossessing its residents of land and water, and handing over these areas to settlers. The process is illustrated through a case study of three villages in the Nablus District - ‘Azmut, Deir al-Hatab and Salem - telling what these communities have undergone since Israel established the Elon Moreh settlement nearby. Through this case study, the report illustrates a broader policy Israel has been implementing throughout the West Bank for decades, and in which the settlers play a key role.
For over twenty years, Israel has been enacting a policy of separation based on discriminatory practices, implemented primarily through many permanent checkpoints in the city. Since Oct. 2015 the military has enhanced infrastructure and beefed up security checks at existing checkpoints, and placed age restrictions on entry to certain neighborhoods. This added a dimension of severe collective punishment to Israel’s separation by discrimination policy in central Hebron. This conduct makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to lead normal lives in the area, forcing them to leave and advancing the ongoing silent transfer of Palestinians from Hebron’s city center.
In July 2016 Israel demolished 13 homes in Qalandia al-Balad, close to the Separation Barrier. Since Qalandia and other neighborhoods were cut off by the Barrier, the Jerusalem Municipality has virtually halted the supply of municipal services and rarely enforces building laws. As a result, Palestinians from East Jerusalem have been attracted to the area. In a rare exception to its usual policy, the Jerusalem Municipality has decided to provide a service in the area: house demolitions.
In recent weeks, the military has held several maneuvers in residential areas or grazing land belonging to Palestinian communities. Israel claims that the areas are “firing zones,” despite the fact that these communities have lived and worked on the land for many years. The repeated displacement threatens the ability of residents to continue living in the communities. As an occupying power, Israel may not use land for general military purposes, and certainly must not displace the residents or damage their livelihood on these grounds.
In September, the military blocked the entrances to dozens of Palestinian communities in the southern Nablus District for 15 days, disrupting the lives of 54,000 residents. The Israeli authorities claimed that the closures followed the throwing of stones and a Molotov cocktail at Israeli vehicles. Such collective punishment disproves Israel’s claim that large areas of the West Bank are under the Palestinian Authority’s control. Israel disrupts the routine of tens of thousands of Palestinians at will, and the PA is helpless to do anything about it.
On 26 Aug. 2016, soldiers shot and killed Iyad Hamed, 36, near a military observation tower close to the village of Silwad. The military initially claimed Hamed had fired at the tower, but changed the story several times eventually claiming that the soldiers fired shots into the air. B'Tselem’s research revealed that Hamed, whose functioning was limited, had attempted to open a fence blocking a road. The soldiers shot him in the back as he was leaving the area. Past experience and the Defense Minister’s comments on the incident make it highly unlikely that anyone will be held accountable for his killing.
Since 2010, Israel has severely restricted access to the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa, which lies northwest of Jerusalem, in order to prevent Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. Instead of building the Security Barrier along the Green Line in the area, Israel has chosen to deny villagers a normal routine, resulting in severe effects on employment, education, basic services and communal ties. The choice to impose these draconian measures reflects absolute prioritization of Israeli interests over the protection of local residents’ rights.
After attacks perpetrated in early July by Palestinians, the Israeli military imposed severe travel restrictions on Palestinians in the Hebron district. The harm in al-Fawwar R.C., crowded with 10,000 residents on 1sq km, was particularly severe, mainly due to their dire financial situation. The restrictions were lifted on 26 July 2016. Local residents told B’Tselem about their difficulties in accessing medical care and the harm to livelihoods. These restrictions illustrate how easily Israel can disrupt the lives of Palestinians everywhere in the West Bank, regardless of the division into Areas A, B and C.
July 2016 saw dozens of night raids by the military on homes in Dura, the hometown of the Palestinian suspected of the drive-by shooting that killed Rabbi Michael Mark and injured his family on 1 July. Soldiers woke up entire households, questioned adults, and left behind terrified children and frustrated adults who felt helpless at being unable to protect their families. Using the blanket excuse of security, the military and the ISA violated the rights of people whose only offense is being related to the suspect or living in the town that is home to his family. Such wholesale harm is inexcusable.