Israel’s West Bank Crackdown
PHOTO: A Palestinian woman cries in her home after a raid by Israeli troops as the army continues feverish searches for three missing Israeli teens, in Salim village near the West Bank city of Nablus, Sunday, June 22,2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
On June 12, 2014, three Israeli teenagers disappeared while hitchhiking from an Israeli settlement near Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank. In response, Israel immediately accused Hamas of kidnapping them and launched its largest military operation in the West Bank in a decade.
The widespread and repressive nature of the crackdown, which has been condemned by Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations, has led some observers to conclude that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exploiting the teens’ disappearance to suppress Hamas and to undermine the recently formed Palestinian Authority unity government, which is supported by Hamas.
PALESTINIANS KILLED & INJURED
- Since the start of the large-scale crackdown on June 13, 2014, at least nine (as of June 27) Palestinians – mostly unarmed civilians - have been killed by Israeli soldiers or died as a result of their operations in the West Bank and Gaza, and scores more have been injured.
- Palestinian fatalities:
- On June 27, 2014, 23-year-old Mohammed al-Fasih, and 25-year-old Usama al-Hassumi were killed by an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza. Israel accused the two men of being militants involved in the firing of rockets.
- On June 25, 78-year-old Fatima Ismail Issa Rushdi died of a heart attack following an Israeli assault on the el-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron.
- On June 22, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 27-year-old Ahmad Said Suod Khalid, who was mentally disabled, during a raid in the al-Ain refugee camp in Nablus.
- Also on June 22, an Israeli sniper shot and killed 30-year-old Mahmoud Ismail Atallah on a rooftop in Ramallah.
- On June 21, an elderly man, Jamil Ali Abed Jabir, died of a heart attack during an Israeli raid in the town of Haris in the northern occupied West Bank.
- On June 20, 22-year-old Mustafa Husni Aslan was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers during a raid into the Qalandia refugee camp near Jerusalem. On June 26 he was pronounced dead.
- On June 20, 15-year-old Mohammad Dudeen was shot and killed with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers during a raid in the town of Dura in the southern occupied West Bank.
- On June 16, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 21-year-old Ahmad Sabarin in the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah.
MILITARY RAIDS & ARRESTS
- Hundreds of military raids have been launched across the occupied West Bank, although the missing Israeli teens were last seen near Hebron in the southern West Bank and are believed to still be in the area. Raids have targeted more than 1000 private homes, the offices of political parties, refugee camps, and the campuses of Birzeit University near Ramallah and the Arab American University in Jenin, resulting in the detention and arrest of students and staff.
- More than 500 Palestinians have been detained and/or imprisoned. Those arrested include at least seven members of the Palestinian legislature and many individuals who were recently released by Israel as part of a prisoner swap. There are currently more than 5000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons.
- Israeli soldiers have also targeted children for arrest, bringing the total number of Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel to more than 250 according to news reports.
- In conducting the raids, Israeli soldiers have caused widespread damage to private property, ransacking homes and offices, and confiscating computers, files and other property. They also raided the offices of journalists in Ramallah, including Russia Today television, damaging and removing computers, equipment, and hard drives.
- On June 22, 2014, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem issued a press release announcing a letter sent to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon from a coalition of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. The press release read in part:
“The large number of raids and arrests over the last week raises concerns that some of these operations are not the result of pressing operational needs. Overall, the measures adopted and their extent do not seem to serve a military need that can justify the damage they have caused. This is the case in terms of the military activity that has taken place in city centers as well as the sweeping and arbitrary travel restrictions. These actions have caused, and continue to cause, disproportionate harm to the basic rights of Palestinians, including the right to safety, health, freedom of movement and the right to earn a living.”
IMPRISONMENT WITHOUT TRIAL & TORTURE & ABUSE OF PALESTINIAN PRISONERS
- On June 23, Israeli media reported that the Israeli government was preparing to double the number of Palestinians being imprisoned without charge or trial, a procedure known as “administrative detention,” from approximately 200 to 400. The use of administrative detention has been harshly criticized by human rights organizations as a violation of the right to due process. On June 17, Amnesty International issued a statement reiterating that it “has repeatedly condemned the practice of administrative detention, and urged the Israeli authorities to release [administrative detainees] unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences.”
- According to Israeli media reports, on June 18 the Israeli government issued orders classifying prisoners detained in the current crackdown as “ticking bombs,” which allows the use of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as “moderate physical pressure,” that amount to torture.
- Israeli authorities have taken measures to worsen the conditions of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, including denying family visits, including to prisoners who have been on a hunger strike in protest at being held without trial.
- The Israeli government is currently in the process of advancing legislation allowing for the force-feeding of hunger strikers, even though Israeli and international medical associations and human rights experts have decried the practice of force-feeding as a form of torture.
INCREASED LIMITATIONS ON MOVEMENT & COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT
- Since the start of the crackdown on June 13, Israel has further tightened its restrictions on the movement of Palestinians within the occupied West Bank, particularly the southern West Bank in and around Hebron where the missing teens were last seen, collectively punishing the entire Palestinian population of the occupied territories. These restrictions are in addition to the already severe Israeli restrictions imposed on the movements and freedoms of Palestinians living under Israel’s 47-year-old military rule.
- According to a statement issued by Amnesty International on June 17:
“Israeli authorities have imposed a number of measures that clearly constitute collective punishment on Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These include the imposition of a complete closure on the Hebron district of the West Bank, which prevents some 680,000 Palestinians from moving between villages and the city of Hebron, as well as within the city. Thousands of residents of the Hebron district who have permits to work inside Israel or in Israeli settlements cannot reach their places of employment. Residents of the Hebron district under the age of 50 have also been prevented from leaving the West Bank via the Allenby Crossing to Jordan.”
“These latest measures of collective punishment come on top of many prolonged punitive measures against Palestinian civilians imposed by the Israeli authorities, including Israel’s seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Amnesty International and many other organizations have repeatedly condemned as a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
STATEMENTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
Human Rights Organizations: “Refrain from Collectively Punishing Palestinians” (June 22, 2014)
Letter from Human Rights Organizations to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
Harm to the Palestinian population and collective punishment in Operation Brother's Keeper (June 22, 2014)
Abducted Israeli Teens Must Be Released, Israel Must Cease Collective Punishment Of Palestinians (June 17, 2014)
Human Rights Watch
Free 3 Abducted Youth: Israeli Response Needs to Respect Palestinian Rights (June 16, 2014)