On 23 June 2020, around midnight, soldiers stopped a car at a flying checkpoint outside Hebron and ordered the driver, Mu’tasem Qawasmeh, 24, and the two friends who were with him to get out and stand by the side of the road. They then assaulted Qawasmeh while keeping his friends from intervening. The assault ended when a military jeep arrived. Qawasmeh said: “I got home at 4:00 A.M. My wife and son were awake, waiting for me. I hugged my son and burst out crying. I was exhausted and felt helpless.”
This is the story of one factory – the Sharaf Gas-Pipe and Metalwork Factory. It is the story of its owner, Yusef Rabah Sharaf, who still remembers the days when orders used to flow in. It is also the story of two of his employees, ‘Ata Abu ‘Areban and Khalil Abu ‘Amarneh, who no longer remember what a monthly wage looks like. The Sharaf Factory is one of many Palestinian businesses to have collapsed due to Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2007. As part of this policy, Israel has turned Gaza into the world's largest open-air prison. This has led to the economy collapsing, hundreds of factories closing, soaring unemployment rates and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians now dependent on humanitarian aid. Some 65% of Gazans are young people under the age of 25 whose lives are unbearable, yet their future carries no hope for change.
Since 2012, the Israeli military has treated the Palestinian residential complex northwest of Nablus as training grounds to use at will. Soldiers enter at any given time, fire live ammunition and stun grenades among homes and sleep in them, completely disregarding the fact that they are on hard-earned private property. The military treats the residents as pawns in a war game who can be detained, assaulted by dogs, their homes searched and their children woken in the middle of the night, as part of a “training routine”.
We stand in solidarity with our colleague from Amnesty International, Laith Abu Zeyad, and demand that Israel lift the movement restrictions barring him from leaving the Occupied Territories. His petition will be heard on 31 May 2020. Targeting Abu Zeyad is yet another example of Israel’s increased persecution and punishment of human rights organizations in recent years. This includes preventing international activists and human rights workers from entering the country and forming a ministry that creates blacklists and engages in censorship.
In January and February, before the corona crisis, the military blocked the entrances to five Palestinian villages in the West Bank for varying durations, collectively punishing the entire population. Blocking roads has become a routine method of oppression Israel uses against Palestinians in the West Bank. This form of collective punishment, which forces residents to live in uncertainty and frustration and waste precious time and money, is completely unjustifiable and an abuse of military force.
The spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip will be a massive disaster, resulting entirely from the unique conditions created by more than a decade of Israeli blockade: a failing healthcare system, extreme poverty, dependence on humanitarian aid, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh living conditions that compromise public health – even before exposure to the new virus – combine with overcrowding to form a nightmare scenario.
On 21 Feb. 2020, during the weekly protest against the closure of the eastern entrance to the village of Kfar Qadum since the settlement of Kedumim was expanded, an army bulldozer pushed boulders, placed on the road to obstruct soldiers, towards residents at high speed. The boulders hit a journalist and 10-year-old boy and damaged an ambulance and private car. The military’s well-documented, violent oppression of these demonstrations forms an illegal formal policy of deterring the residents’ legitimate protest against violation of their rights.
As of the end of December 2019, Israel was holding at least 4,544 “security prisoners” in its prisons within Israel and the West Bank. Israel imposes numerous restrictions on family visits to prison – including on the identity of the visitors and the frequency of visits. The visits are organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Every visit to prison involves an entire day of arduous travel and physical and emotional hardship – especially for elderly relatives and children, as seen in the testimonies presented herein.
A new B’Tselem report released today, Playing the Security Card: Israeli Policy in Hebron as a Means to Effect Forcible Transfer of Local Palestinians, demonstrates how Israel has been using security excuses to implement a policy that has made life unbearable for the Palestinian residents of Hebron’s city center (the Old City), in an effort to drive them from their homes. This policy relies on the extreme regime of separation Israel has been implementing in the city for the past 25 years – ever since the massacre of Palestinians carried out by Baruch Goldstein – so as to enable a small number of settlers to live in the heart of a crowded Palestinian city. This policy violates the prohibition against forcible transfer, which constitutes a war crime.
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.