Since 1 July 2017, Israel has banned family visits with 100 or so Hamas prisoners from Gaza it is holding in its own territory in defiance of international law. Four prisoners petitioned the HCJ against the ban in August 2017. In June 2019, the court rejected their petition, accepting the wrongful notion that human beings may be used as a means to an end – in this case, pressuring Hamas to return Israeli civilians and the remains of Israeli soldiers it is holding, and completely ignoring the true motivation for the ban, which is sheer revenge.
In June, we released our findings on the hostilities between Israel and militant organizations in Gaza in early May and the civilians killed and injured during Israeli attacks. Today, B'Tselem releases further research focusing on two buildings that were destroyed after the military gave their occupants only several minutes to evacuate and the immense harm suffered by residential and commercial tenants in them. Building occupants spoke to B'Tselem field researcher Olfat al-Kurd about the terror of having to vacate on a moment’s notice and the destruction meted on their lives.
B’Tselem today published its investigation of the recent bout of hostilities in Gaza. During this latest round, the Palestinian military branches killed 4 Israeli civilians. Targeting the civilian population in Israel is unlawful and immoral. During the same time period, Israel killed 25 Palestinians, including 13 who were uninvolved in the hostilities, 2 of them minors. Israel’s actions were undertaken as part of the unlawful and immoral policy of attacking homes which it has been implementing in Gaza for years and which has already caused the deaths of thousands of civilians, hundreds of them minors.
Isolating the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world has trapped its residents in a small, closed job market, with no prospects of development and no future. The economic there is at an all-time low, after 12 years under an Israeli-imposed blockade and 19 years that Israel has been working to cut Gaza off from the West Bank and has revoked Gaza residents’ permits to work in Israel. In 2018, unemployment in Gaza reached 52%. Israel could change this reality right now. Instead, it chooses to force Gaza residents to live in a state of hopelessness.
Waging another war in the Gaza Strip is a folly that will enhance no-one’s safety or wellbeing. It will merely exacerbate the suffering of civilians on both sides. The Israeli government must lift the stifling blockade it has imposed on the residents of the Gaza Strip; Hamas must cease firing at civilians.
Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council meeting today (Monday, 18 March 2019) on the findings of the UN commission of inquiry into the 2018 Gaza protests, B’Tselem has issued a position paper explaining that Israel’s promise to “investigate” 11 incidents in which protesters were killed is mere propaganda. In a letter, B’Tselem’s director, Hagai El-Ad called upon the head of the commission, Santiago Canton, to reject the tapestry of lies Israel has woven while killing more unarmed protesters.
Israel permits live fire, from some distance, at non-dangerous protestors by the Gaza perimeter fence, an unlawful policy that has caused thousands of casualties. Yet the injury does not end there: Israel has rejected more than 80% of requests by wounded protestors to leave Gaza for treatment in the West Bank or in Israel. Israel is responsible for the injuries and for Gaza’s failing healthcare system after more than a decade of blockade. It follows that Israel is responsible for changing this reality.
Israel’s unlawful shelling and bombing of civilian homes during Operation Protective Edge destroyed or badly damaged some 18,000 homes, leaving about 100,000 people homeless. After the fighting, families received rent subsidies from international agencies, chiefly UNRWA. In 2018, UNRWA had to end aid due to US funding cuts, even though 20% of the homes still need to be restored and some 13,000 are still homeless. Israel has abdicated any responsibility for the destruction it wreaked on Gaza and has never paid a price for it.
“Since the Israeli navy confiscated my hasake (boat) I’ve been out of work and can’t support my family. Things in the Gaza Strip are very bad because of the blockade, and there are no other jobs available. I used to make about 20 shekels a day fishing. That enabled me to buy food and drink for my family. Now our lives are very hard.” Tamer Zayed, Beit Lahiya, 27 August 2018
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, 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.