On Sunday, 23 May 2021, at around 6:00 P.M., about 15 settlers, escorted by about five soldiers, led a herd of some 60 cows from east to west through Wadi Qana, a fertile valley with cultivated farmland belonging to residents of Deir Istiya and other villages, which Israel is trying to take over.
Although Israel claims it ensures accountability for offenses against Palestinians, Josh Breiner revealed today in Israeli daily Ha’aretz, following complaints filed by Israeli rights group HaMoked, that appalling attacks by Israeli prison guards against bound Palestinian prisoners at Ketziot Prison were whitewashed. The investigation of this clear-cut, documented case, in which the victims knew precisely who harmed them, was shut down by law enforcement authorities after several symbolic gestures, on the grounds of “perpetrator unknown.” No one bothered to even mix the white paint, let alone cover someone in it.
In April 2021, B’Tselem documented three incidents in which settlers and soldiers tried to drive members of the a-Tamimi family, who live in the village of Deir Nizam, from their farmland near the village of a-Nabi Saleh.
Israel insists it is only attacking legitimate military objectives in Gaza. As it has not provided proof the attacks meet the criteria of international humanitarian law – “an effective contribution to military action” and "offering a definite military advantage” – their lawfulness cannot be established. Clearly, bombing homes only due to inhabitants’ identity or in order to demoralize the population is unlawful. Israel implemented this broad legal interpretation in previous rounds of fighting, but has never been held accountable for its policy.
The principle of proportionality prohibits an attack if the expected harm to civilians is excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. As its complicated implementation relies on assessments and partial knowledge, and on balancing virtually incomparable elements, moral considerations also come into play. The interpretation Israel offers for this principle is unreasonable, legally erroneous and morally bankrupt. Israel may lay the blame on Hamas, yet its bombs are the ones killing civilians and it bears sole responsibility.
Palestinian armed groups have been routinely and intolerably firing rockets at Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. Since Monday, 10 May, Hamas expanded the range of these attacks and fired rockets at cities in the center of Israel, followed shortly by Islamic Jihad. These criminal acts have resulted in deaths and injuries of Israeli and other civilians in recent days, including the killing of a five year-old boy. These war crimes cannot be excused, justified or explained. The ICC prosecutor announced that her office will investigate these criminal acts and B’Tselem hopes that all those responsible will be held accountable.
Bombing residential towers - that do not constitute a military target and make dozens of families homeless - is a war crime. The architects and leaders of the Israeli apartheid regime, who do not consider Palestinians as equal human beings deserving full human rights, should be prosecuted for this war crime.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports 139 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza so far, including 39 minors and 22 women. Entire families were wiped out when Israel bombed their homes. Reports that some deaths were caused by rockets launched from Gaza are being investigated. While the ICC Prosecutor is investigating suspected war crimes committed in 2014, Israel is now implementing the same policy. The international community must use whatever leverage it has to force Israel to change its policy before it claims more lives.
The current violence throughout Israel/Palestine is an outcome of the apartheid regime that controls the entire area. Under this regime, about half of the people who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – Jews – are able to lead full lives and enjoy protection of their human rights, while the other half – Palestinians – cannot. We are all entitled to live under a regime that ensures justice and quality for both peoples. We all desire life. For every single one of us.
Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.