On 15 Dec. 2017, at a protest sparked by President Trump’s declaration, a soldier near the Gaza perimeter fence fatally shot Ibrahim Abu Thuraya (a double amputee) in the head. In Dec., another 7 protesters were fatally shot by soldiers on the other side of the fence; none of them posed mortal danger to the soldiers. This is a direct outcome of the military’s open-fire policy near the perimeter fence, which includes gunfire – also by snipers – at stone-throwers who pose no danger. The media reported that a military investigation was launched, yet experience shows it is highly unlikely to yield any action.
Following Trump’s declaration regarding Jerusalem, December 2017 saw a rise in Gazan demonstrations near the fence with Israel, during which soldiers killed eight Palestinians with live fire and injured hundreds. B’Tselem found that none of the demonstrators killed were endangering the troops and there was no justification to use live fire at them. The officials who authorized the policy of suppressing demonstrations in Gaza with these measures likely took the predictable dire outcomes into account and bear responsibility for them.
June 2017 saw the tenth anniversary of the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip which has resulted in economic collapse in Gaza and a sharp drop in the standard of living there. Unemployment rates in Gaza are among the highest in the world, with an overall rate of 46.6% in 2017. The situation is far worse among women and young adults. Balah Falestin, a date-processing plant, was established in Gaza in 2016 as part of a financial aid program for women. The plant, funded by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), employs women who are out of work or come from low-income families. The 41 women who work there are paid a salary and receive a portion of the profits. B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh visited the facility in December 2017 and spoke with some of the women working there.
In August 2014, Muhammad Abu Hadaf, then 6, was wounded by an Israeli missile fired near his home in al-Qararah. For more than three years, his family and doctors fought for his life, moving him paralyzed, blind and unable to speak from one hospital to another. On 6 December 2017, at age 9, he died of his injuries. Targeting homes with occupants inside was a horrifying aspect of Israel’s actions in Operation Protective Edge, resulting in the killing of more than 1,000 people who took no part in the fighting, including hundreds of children.
Israel keeps thousands of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, in breach of international law, forcing relatives to request permits to visit. Over the years it has imposed immense obstacles to visits from Gaza. Currently, only spouses and children under 16 are allowed, and only once every two months; grandparents and siblings are barred. Israel must stop this violation of the rights of prisoners and their families and allow them visits without imposing arbitrary restrictions as maintaining family ties is a fundamental human right, and prisoners are no exception.
Najah al-Katnani was born in al-Jalazun refugee camp in the West Bank. In 1975 she married and moved to Gaza City with her husband. At the time, she and her family could travel freely between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After the first intifada, Israel imposed restrictions on such passage. The restrictions were tightened after the second intifada, and Israel now permits passage only in “humanitarian cases.” Gaza residents are prevented from visiting their relatives in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Israel.
Maryam Abu Yusef, 67, a mother of five from a-Nuseirat R.C in Gaza, has to plan her life around the limited hours when her home receives electricity and water. Both vital services are provided only once every few days, and not always together. The family does not receive enough water, and what they do get is unfit for drinking. This forces them pay large sums of money to purchase additional water privately.
“I used to use candles for lighting … but I stopped because of something that happened about five years ago. My children, who got up at 5:00 A.M. to go to school, lit a candle and set it down on the TV... They forgot the candle and left… I woke up in a panic from the smell of smoke. The candle had fallen over and the TV caught fire. The whole house was full of black smoke. I started screaming and woke my husband. He put out the fire. ... Now we use battery-operated LED lights … but the power isn’t on long enough to charge the battery, and the lighting in the house is dim because the battery is nearly drained.”
“My washing machine broke down about two months ago, because of the irregular power supply. Before that, when we got power at regular hours, I’d set an alarm clock to get up and run a load when the power came back on at night. I’d also knead dough and bake a few dozen pita breads in an electric pita-bread pot for us and for my husband’s family. My hands ache, but we can’t afford to buy ready-made bread. When the power shut down, I’d move on to housework that doesn’t require electricity.” Click here to read the full account.
Hamas is reportedly holding at least two Israeli citizens - Avera Mengistu and Hashem a-Sayed -in Gaza as bargaining chips for the release of Hamas prisoners. A third Israeli crossed into Gaza 18 months ago and might also be held by Hamas. Holding people by force to be used as bargaining chips is immoral and unlawful. Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli civilians it is holdings. Pending such release, it must treat them humanely and allow the ICRC to visit them.
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.