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.
On Fri. 10 May, Israeli soldiers detained two brothers - Muhammad (17) and ‘Awni (20) Abu Shamsiyeh - following an altercation between them and a settler who harassed them on their way home from grocery shopping. Their family lives in Tel Rumeidah, a neighborhood in the center of Hebron whose residents have been subjected to travel restrictions and harassed by security forces and settlers ever since a settlement bordering the neighborhood was established. This incident shows how untenable life has become for Palestinians who still live in the center of Hebron, where Israel imposes a policy of separation designed to drive out Palestinians, ostensibly of their own volition.
On the last Friday of Ramadan, in two separate incidents, Border Police opened fire at two Palestinian youths trying to cross the Separation Barrier near Beit Sahur to attend prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque. One (15 years old) was killed and the other injured. B’Tselem found that neither had – nor could have – posed mortal danger, being in broad daylight, on a buffer path between two fences, facing armed and ready officers in protective gear. The fact that the predictable and deadly outcome of this egregious conduct is met by public indifference and that the conduct receives the full backing of all official bodies demonstrates just how little worth is accorded Palestinian lives.
The Jerusalem Municipality plans to displace all residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Yasul, close to 500 people according to OCHA figures. The residents built the neighborhood in the early 1990s on land privately owned by Palestinians, but which the city zoned as a green area to prevent construction by Palestinians. The city has done so in many other parts East Jerusalem as well. The Jerusalem Municipality issued demolition orders for the houses, and the orders were approved by the courts, who chose to ignore the reality and city policy and focus on technicalities.
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.
Today – 52 years to the day since Israel began occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – we launched a new interactive project, “Conquer and Divide,” a collaboration with independent research agency Forensic Architecture, the project illustrates the various measures Israel has used to encroach upon Palestinian space over the decades; how Israel has shattered the land into small, isolated units; and how it has instituted divisions, keeping Palestinians from different areas apart from one another and from Israelis.
Every day, Israel determines what the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank will look like – while they, themselves, are barred from taking part in decisions that shape their present and their future. Israel uses its power in a violent, arbitrary fashion, with blatant disregard for the safety, wellbeing and quality of life of the Palestinians who live under its control.
This Sunday, Israel will mark Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the annexation of 70 square kilometers from the West Bank to the municipality of Jerusalem. Palestinian residents have little to celebrate - Israel treats them like unwanted immigrants in their own city and employs a policy designed to drive them out of their homes. One of the measures Israel uses for this purpose is lack of urban planning and demolition. First, master plans are not drawn up for Palestinian neighborhoods. Then, when Palestinians build without a permit (because everyone needs a home), the municipality demolishes their homes or threatens to do so. Since 2004, the authorities have demolished at least 848 homes in East Jerusalem, leaving at least 2,960 people - 1,596 of them children - homeless.
On Sun., 5 May 2019, two soldiers approached Palestinian cars parked near the closed gate the military had installed to keep cars from entering the Jaber neighborhood, Hebron. The soldiers demanded that the cars be moved, and one decided to strike the cars with the barrel of his gun. The soldiers threatened to damage the cars if their owners parked there again. Regardless of whether these actions were based on orders or they were an individual soldier’s initiative, the incident is part of the military’s abusive policy toward Palestinians in Hebron, which is why, again, no one will be held to account.
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.