In 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors. In at least 11 cases, the forces fired unlawfully at Palestinians who posed no risk. Despite the pandemic, Israel ramped up demolitions in the West Bank, leaving 1,006 Palestinians, including 519 minors, homeless. This year, we documented 248 cases of settlers harming Palestinians or their property –with full state backing. This year, too, Palestinians were subjected to a daily, violent occupation routine of incursions, night raids, movement restrictions, and arrests.
On 4 Dec. 2020, during clashes in which Palestinians threw stones at soldiers on the outskirts of al-Mughayir, a sniper fired a two-two bullet – live fire, to all intents and purposes – that hit ‘Ali Abu ‘Alia (15), who was watching from afar and not endangering anyone. The teen was hit in the abdomen from 150 meters away and taken to hospital, where he died of his wounds several hours later. This killing reflects Israel’s open-fire policy in the West Bank, which permits opening live fire even in circumstances where it cannot be justified.
On 24 Nov. 2020, several dozen Palestinians and Israelis held a demonstration in the northern Jordan Valley. One was hit in the abdomen by a “rubber” bullet and put in an ambulance. Soldiers immediately opened the doors and tried to drag him out. A few minutes later, an officer ordered them to let go and he was taken to hospital. The soldiers’ violent conduct and disruption of urgent medical care cannot be considered legal. Along with the suppression of the protest, it is part of the systemic oppression of Palestinians under occupation.
Throughout October 2020, the Israeli military harassed the residents of Sabastiya, a Palestinian town northwest of Nablus. Troops periodically blocked the town’s entrances and denied entry to outsiders. Soldiers raided a crowded recreation area, hurling dozens of stun grenades and tear gas canisters and firing “rubber” bullets. One bullet hit Adham a-Sha’er (29) in the head and he lost his eye, in a grave but predictable outcome of this prohibited collective punishment, which is part of an occupation routine of violence and uncertainty.
At a hearing in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights this afternoon, B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad, spoke about the urgent need for determined European action, which would clarify to Israel that violating the rights of Palestinians will carry consequences: Consequences for human rights violations can be introduced through European foreign policy, by effectively using Europe’s considerable leverage. Clearly, the decision to not do so is a political choice. It undermines Europe’s commitment to human rights and weakens the rules-based international order. It normalizes oppression and dehumanizes Palestinians, because – apparently – no one has to be held accountable for their permanent subjugation.
In August 2020, Israel bombed targets in the Gaza Strip by air and from the ground, injuring five Palestinians – four minors and a woman – and lightly damaging a school and six homes. Palestinian rocket fire injured one Israeli and lightly damaged two homes. In an Israeli airstrike on 14 August near a residential compound in al-Bureij Refugee Camp, two children aged 3 and 11 were injured in the head and four homes damaged. This policy of bombing densely-populated areas, which has caused thousands of casualties, is immoral and illegal.
On 5 Aug. 2020, Israeli Border Police officers stopped a car with three Palestinian passengers in the village of al-‘Aqrabaniyah. An officer shot at the windshield, hitting ‘Abd a-Rahman Jbarah in the head. Jbarah lost one eye and may lose sight in the other. The other passengers were injured by glass shards, briefly interrogated and released. Opening fatal fire although the passengers posed no danger is unlawful and unjustifiable, and the investigation reportedly launched is part of the whitewashing mechanism that enables these acts to recur.
On the night of 19 Aug. 2020, Israeli soldiers lying in ambush by a road near the Palestinian village of Deir Abu Mash'al opened live fire at three teens about to set a gas balloon and car tires on fire, killing Muhammad Matar, 16, and injuring the other two. Media reports indicate that the military has decided to prevent "attempts to plant IEDs" in the area with lethal fire. This unlawful, immoral conduct cannot be justified. After demanding the parents identify a picture of their dead son, Israel refused to release his body.
On 12 August 2020, Israel reduced southern Gaza’s fishing range from 15 to eight nautical miles, officially because explosive-laden balloons had been launched from Gaza into Israel. On 16 August 2020, Israel banned access to the Gaza sea, and on 2 September 2020, reopened the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles. This restriction is one of several that Israel has imposed for years on the Gazan fishing industry, leading to its near collapse and subjecting fishermen to perilous working conditions and abject poverty. In the following testimonies, wives and mothers of fishermen and fishmongers describe life under the restrictions.
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.