B'Tselem's 2011 annual report on human rights in the Occupied Territories

Published: 
21 Mar 2012

Sharp increase in killing of Palestinian civilians not involved in hostilities in 2011

There was a sharp increase in the number of uninvolved Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip in 2011. There was also an increase in the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians, compared to 2010. The casualty figures appear in the annual report of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, published today (Wed. 21.3.2012). Note: The data does not include recent events in the Gaza Strip.

The annual report surveys the broad spectrum of issues regarding the Israeli authorities' human rights record in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past year, the 44th year of the Israeli occupation. An interactive version of the report is available online and distributed through social media.

Jessica Montell, B'Tselem Executive Director, said: "Human rights violations are inherent in a military occupation and the protracted nature of Israel's occupation only exacerbates human rights violations. Our job at B'Tselem is to ensure the fullest respect for human rights in the present circumstances, but it is clear that as long as the occupation continues, Palestinians will never fully enjoy their rights".

The Human Toll: Killing of Palestinian and Israeli Civilians

Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces

From 1 January-31 December 2011, Israeli security forces killed 115 Palestinians, 18 of them minors (under age 18). The data does not include recent events in the Gaza Strip.

One hundred and five Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. Of these, 37 were civilians who took no part in hostilities, 49 took part in hostilities, and another 14 were the object of targeted killing. Regarding the remaining four persons, B'Tselem does not know if they were taking part in hostilities. In addition, one Palestinian policeman was killed while in a building belonging to the Hamas navy. Details for 2011 and 2010:

Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip

2010 2011
Did not take part in hostilities 18 37
Took part in hostilities 46 49
Palestinian police 0 1
Object of targeted killing 2 14
Unknown 2 4
Total 68 105

There are no ongoing hostilities in the West Bank, so it is irrelevant to classify Palestinian fatalities according to whether or not they took part in hostilities. In 2011, Israeli security forces killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank: one in an exchange of gunfire with soldiers, two after they apparently tried to attack soldiers at a checkpoint, four during arrest operations, one while driving his car, one by soldiers’ gunfire after Palestinians threw stones at them, and one as a result of a soldier firing a tear-gas canister that hit him in the head from short range while he was throwing stones. In addition, a Palestinian minor, resident of East Jerusalem, was killed during clashes with security forces and with security guards of the Jewish settlement in Silwan. The identity of the shooter remains unknown.

Israeli and foreign civilians killed by Palestinians

In 2011, Palestinians killed 11 Israeli civilians (in 2010, Palestinians killed 5 Israeli and two foreign civilians and three members of the Israeli security forces).

Eight were killed in the West Bank:

Five members of the Fogel family – the parents and three of their children, aged 11, 4, and an infant – were stabbed and shot to death in their home in the Itamar settlement; A man was shot by a Palestinian policeman when he entered the area of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus; and a father and his infant son were killed as a result of stones thrown at the car in which they were traveling on Route 60.

Another Israeli civilian, was shot to death in the Jenin refugee camp – the identity of the shooter and the background of the shooting remain unclear.

Three Israeli civilians were killed inside Israel:

Two in rocket attacks from Gaza – one in Beersheva and the other in Ashkelon – and a 16-year-old boy was killed by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza at a bus inside the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

In addition, six Israeli civilians and one Israeli soldier were killed in an attack near Eilat. The identity of the perpetrators has not been announced. In an exchange of gunfire in that incident, several persons, whose identity is not known to B'Tselem, were killed, among them apparently some of the perpetrators. The soldier was killed by friendly fire. Another soldier was killed, also by friendly fire, in an exchange of gunfire with Palestinians along the border with Gaza.

Two foreign civilians were killed: one was abducted and hanged by Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and the other was killed by an explosive charge laid by Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians

Two Palestinians were killed by settler gunfire in the West Bank. In both cases, settlers went to the vicinity of Palestinian villages and apparently opened fire after Palestinians had thrown stones at them. A third Palestinian, a resident of East Jerusalem, was stabbed to death in the center of Jerusalem by an Israeli civilian.

Death penalty by Palestinian Authorities

In 2011, Palestinian Authority courts in the West Bank sentenced one person to death, and Hamas courts in the Gaza Strip sentenced eight persons to death (one of them an Israeli, who was tried and sentenced in absentia). Hamas executed three persons last year.

Other notable statistic and developments included in the report

Palestinian minors in detention

Statistics

According to the Israel Prison Service, in 2011, some two hundred Palestinian minors were in the custody of security forces at any given time. The number of minors in prison has been dropping steadily. By way of comparison, in 2008, an average of about 320 minors were incarcerated each month.

These figures do not include minors detained for questioning and released without being prosecuted. The authorities could not provide figures for such detentions. According to the military court’s figures, in 2010, 650 indictments were filed against minors, 40 percent of them for stone-throwing with no other offenses. Other minors were accused, among other things, of throwing petrol bombs and of belonging to an unlawful organization. According to figures of the IDF Spokesperson, in 2010, eight minors were convicted of serious crimes, among them the attempted assault of a soldier. In 2011, one minor was convicted of five counts of homicide – the killing of five members of the Fogel family from Itamar – and of other crimes arising out of the same incident. The court sentenced him to five consecutive life sentences, and an additional five years for the other offenses he committed.

A welcome change in the age of minority for Palestinians

Israeli law defines a minor as a person under 18 years old. This same definition has been applied to Palestinians in the West Bank only since September 2011. Prior to that, the relevant age was 16. Although the change is welcome, Palestinian minors still are not provided the protections granted under Israeli and international law.

The Gaza Strip

Restrictions on export and detachment from the West Bank

In May 2011, Egypt declared that the Rafah crossing would remain open permanently for Palestinians to cross. The opening of the crossing improved Gazans’ freedom of movement, and most people can now leave for Egypt and from there to other countries, without Israel’s approval. However, Rafah Crossing does not enable the transfer of goods, so that Gazans still rely on Israel for imports and exports. In addition, residents of the Gaza Strip cannot reach the West Bank via Rafah Crossing because Israel does not allow them to enter the West Bank via Jordan.

According to B’Tselem’s figures, in 2011, 223 trucks (carrying about 500 tons) of strawberries, 12 trucks (34 tons) of peppers, three trucks (11 tons) of cherry tomatoes, and 9,578,040 flowers left the Gaza Strip. These quantities are miniscule compared to the amount of exports prior to the siege and clearly do not meet the population’s needs. In addition, Israel permits exports only to Europe, and not to the West Bank or to Israel. Export of produce to Europe is barely profitable, and is only possible thanks to the involvement of the Dutch government, which administers and finances the project.

Gilad Shalit goes free

In October 2011, five years and four months after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s abduction, Hamas and Israel reached agreement on his release. On October 18, Shalit was taken to Egypt and then, upon the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners, brought to Israel. In the second stage of the agreement, carried out on 18 December 2011, Israel released another 550 Palestinian prisoners.

Settlements

Rapid construction after the freeze: 40 percent of all government housing starts are in occupied territory

In the first seven months of 2011, the pace of housing starts in settlements picked up. The Israeli Housing Ministry initiated 90 housing starts in settlements and 1,399 in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The total (1,489) amounts to 39 percent of all housing starts by the ministry. During this period, the construction of 351 apartments in settlements and 618 in the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were completed, all under the initiative of the Housing Ministry. This total (969 apartments) was 48 percent of all apartments built and completed by the ministry in this seven-month period.

Extensive Construction Plans in East Jerusalem

In 2011, Israel increased its efforts to expand Jewish neighborhoods and establish new ones in East Jerusalem, as well as build a new national park there. These plans, if implemented, will sever the Palestinian neighborhoods from the rest of the West Bank.

Restrictions on Palestinian Construction

Home demolition in Area C

According to B'Tselem documentation, in 2011, the Civil Administration demolished 176 homes built without a permit in Area C of the West Bank, (in which Palestinians find it virtually impossible to receive permits) leaving 1,138 Palestinians homeless, including 532 minors. This is an increase over the previous year, when the Civil Administration demolished 108 housing units, leaving homeless 663 Palestinians (among them 317 minors). Almost half of the demolitions in the past two years were carried out in the Jordan Valley.

East Jerusalem

In 2011, Israeli authorities demolished 20 homes in East Jerusalem, in which 132 Palestinians (among them 72 minors) lived. By comparison, in 2010, the municipality demolished 22 homes, in which 191 (94 minors) lived.

Law enforcement on settlers who harm Palestinians and their property

Lenient police treatment of Israelis who harm Palestinians

The Israel Police, which is charged with investigating settler violence against Palestinians, does not properly investigate the claims of violence and does not carry out its law-enforcement obligations. From September 2000 to the end of 2011, B'Tselem submitted 352 complaints to the Israel Police, demanding to know if investigations had been opened in cases in which Israelis harmed Palestinians or damaged their property, and if so, the status of the investigations. The complaints dealt with such actions as gunfire, assault, destruction of property, forcing people off their land, threats, theft of crops, and torching of fields.

In 250 cases, an investigation had been opened, but only 29 had resulted in an indictment. Of the remaining cases investigated, 137 files were closed with no measures being taken against anyone involved in the incident. In 67 cases, the investigation was still ongoing, and in 15 cases, the investigation file had been referred to a state attorney. In another two cases, B'Tselem filed appeals, which are pending.

Of the remaining 102 cases, B'Tselem was informed that in 80 cases, the police did not open an investigation, primarily because the person injured did not file a formal complaint, though the police are required by law to investigate every time they hear of a suspected crime. In 16 cases, B'Tselem received no response to its complaint. One case was still being processed and in five cases, the file could not be located.

Soldiers standing idly by

B'Tselem has documented some cases where security forces were present during incidents of settler violence yet did not intervene; in a few cases, they even took part in the violence. From September 2000 to the end of 2011, B’Tselem submitted 57 complaints of incidents in which it was suspected that security forces stood idly by during acts of violence. The responses received from the Military Advocate General Corps indicated that a criminal investigation been opened in only four cases (and in two of these, the file was closed without taking any measures against the soldiers involved). In 30 cases, it was decided not to open an investigation, in 12 cases B'Tselem was informed that its inquiry was still being handled, and in five cases, B'Tselem received no reply. Another four cases were referred to other military bodies for handling, one case was dealt with in a disciplinary hearing, and one file could not be located.