Nazima Abdullah, the widow of Omar Assad, is comforted during his funeral. The elderly Assad, a US citizen, died after being beaten by Israeli soldiers who left him tied up outside in the cold in the middle of the night. (Photo: Alaa Badarneh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
The following document provides an overview of Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights over the course of 2021 and January 2022.
Palestinians killed & injured by Israeli forces & settlers
The number of Palestinians killed by Israelis reached a seven-year high in 2021, with more fatalities than any year since 2014, mostly during Israel’s assault on Gaza in May. It was also the deadliest year for Palestinian children since 2014. Israel's lethal violence continued in 2022. Some of the Palestinians recently killed by Israelis include:
- On January 12, 2022, Israeli soldiers pulled 78-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad out of his car late at night while he was driving in his village of Jiljilya in the occupied West Bank, beat him, and left him in the cold, bound, gagged, and in distress. He was found unresponsive hours later and pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy found that he died from a stress-induced heart attack caused by the violence he was subjected to from the soldiers. The army unit that stopped Assad, the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion, has a particularly violent history, with several soldiers convicted of torturing and abusing Palestinians in the past, including beating and electrocuting people.
- On January 6, 21-year-old Bakeer Mohammad Hashash was shot in the head and killed by Israeli soldiers during a raid on the Balata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
- On January 5, an Israeli police tow truck driver ran over Hajj Suleiman, an elderly longtime leading Palestinian human rights activist in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank, as he protested Israel’s theft of Palestinian cars in his village of Umm al-Khair. The police didn’t stop to help Suleiman or call for medical help. On January 16, Suleiman died from his injuries. As of January 19, police had not bothered to question the tow truck driver who killed Suleiman.
2021 Total figures
At least 324: Total number of Palestinians killed by Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza), according to the United Nations. Of those, 261 were killed during Israel’s 11-day assault on Gaza in May, including 60 children and 41 women.
78: Number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied territories, including 61 in Gaza, 15 killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, and 2 killed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. According to Defence for Children International - Palestine, since 2000 Israeli soldiers, police, and settlers have killed 2,206 Palestinian children.
More than 17,000: Number of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in the occupied territories, including approximately 14,679 in the West Bank and 2,363 in Gaza.
Homes destroyed & Palestinians made homeless by Israel in the occupied territories
Israel’s attempts to force Palestinian families out of their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem was one of the causes of the surge in violence in May 2021. As in previous years, Israel’s destruction of Palestinian homes and violent displacement of Palestinian families continued throughout the year and into 2022. Some recent examples include:
- On January 31, 2022, brothers Mahmoud and Daoud Shqeirat, were forced to destroy their own homes in Jabal al-Mukabber in occupied East Jerusalem or be forced to pay a large fine by Israel to do it. Thirteen members of the Shqeirat family, including 5 children, were made homeless.
- On January 25, fifteen members of the Karameh family were violently forced out of their home by Israeli police in Abu Tor in East Jerusalem, which was then destroyed, on January 25. Nine people were injured and journalists attacked by police.
- On January 19, fifteen members of the Salhiya family were also violently forced out of their homes in the middle of the night in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli police, who then destroyed the two homes. In the process, police beat men, women, and children and arrested eighteen people, including several members of the family and activists there to support them.
2021 Total figures
8,250: Number of Palestinians displaced by Israel’s bombardment of occupied and besieged Gaza in May who remained homeless as of November, according to the UN.
1,130: Number of Palestinians displaced by Israel’s destruction of their homes in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank because they were built without permission from Israeli authorities, which is almost impossible for them to obtain, including 813 in the West Bank and 317 in East Jerusalem, according to the UN. More than 400 children were among the displaced, according to B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
2,173: Number of Palestinian homes destroyed or severely damaged by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in May, according to the UN.
262: Number of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem because they were built without permission from Israeli authorities, including 180 in the West Bank and 82 in East Jerusalem, according to B’Tselem. Often, Palestinians are forced to destroy their own homes or be charged a large fine by Israel to do it.
More than 850: Total number of Palestinian homes and other structures (including businesses and agricultural buildings) destroyed by Israel in the occupied territories, according to the UN, for being built without permission from Israeli authorities, including more than 690 in the West Bank and more than 160 in East Jerusalem.
970: Number of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem facing forced displacement, according to the UN, mainly due to the efforts of Israeli settler groups, many of which are funded by US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, including 424 children, comprising 218 households.
0.65%: The percentage of applications for Palestinian construction permits in the occupied West Bank that were approved by Israel from 2019-2020. From 2016-2020, Israel approved just 0.9% of applications for construction permits from Palestinians in the West Bank - a mere 24 out of 2,550. In contrast, from 2016-2020 Israel issued construction permits for 8,356 new housing units inside illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.
More than 130,000: Total number of Palestinian homes destroyed since 1947 by Zionist paramilitary groups and the Israeli government in what became Israel in 1948 and in the territories occupied by Israel during the June 1967 War, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied (stolen) Palestinian land
Israel continued its theft of Palestinian land for settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem unabated in 2021 and into 2022, despite a new Israeli prime minister and government. Notable recent examples include:
- On January 5, 2022, Israel announced plans to construct more than 3,500 units in illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. Almost half (1,465) are in Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, which were strategically placed by Israel to cut Palestinian East Jerusalem off from nearby Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, separating Palestinians who live in the two cities, which have been intimately connected for thousands of years. Givat Hamatos and Har Homa also form part of a ring of Israeli settlements and walls that surround Bethlehem on three sides, isolating the city and imprisoning its residents. (See here for map of Israeli settlements and walls surrounding Bethlehem.)
- In late October 2021, Israel announced the first new settlement expansion under the new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, consisting of 3,130 units in 25 different settlements in the occupied West Bank. Bennett, a former head of the main political body representing settlers (the Yesha Council), replaced longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June. It was also the first announcement of new settlement expansion since President Joe Biden took office in the US.
2021 Total figures
More than 4,000: Number of housing unit tenders issued by Israel for settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law and numerous UN resolutions, according to settlement watchdog group Peace Now, including 3,467 in the West Bank and 543 in East Jerusalem.
3,465: Number of housing units in West Bank settlements that passed one of the planning stages.
Nearly 700,000: Total number of Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
272: Total number of Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, including 132 official settlements and some 140 nascent settlement “outposts” built in violation of Israeli law as well as international law but with the tacit approval and support of the Israeli government.
Israeli settler violence against Palestinians & their property
In the occupied West Bank, extremist Israeli settlers continued to run rampant in 2021, attacking Palestinians and their property as well as Israelis standing in solidarity with them, often under the protection of Israeli soldiers. According to the UN, the number of settler attacks against Palestinians in 2021 causing death, injury and/or significant property damage was the highest ever recorded. There was a 50% increase in the number of attacks over 2020, and a 150% increase since 2019. In December 2021, Prime Minister Bennett dismissed reports of the surge in settler violence by claiming it was “insignificant.” Some notable recent examples include:
- On January 24, 2022, three Palestinians were injured and the windows of 20 cars and two businesses broken by settlers throwing rocks while driving through the town of Hawara near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The settlers were guarded by Israeli soldiers as they drove through Hawara (see video here), including a military jeep escorting the settler convoy.
- On January 21, more than a dozen masked settlers attacked Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists in the village of Burin in the occupied West Bank, injuring six people with clubs and stones, and setting one of their cars on fire.
- On December 25, 2021, armed settlers attacked a 20-year-old Palestinian shepherd, Isma’il Awad, and his family using bats and fists in the northern Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. When Israeli soldiers showed up, they arrested Awad and seven other members of his family rather than the settlers. At the military base where they were taken by the soldiers, the family members were beaten by settlers again. Four of the eight were released the same day without charge, while the other four were held for four more days before being released.
- On December 23, some 10,000 settlers rampaged in the occupied West Bank while demonstrating against Israel’s plans to dismantle a settlement religious school built in violation of Israeli law, throwing rocks and assaulting Palestinians in the village of Burqa, one of whom had to be hospitalized as a result of his injuries. The settlers also destroyed tombstones in a local Palestinian cemetery. Following the rampage, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 42 Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets as they protested the settler violence.
- On November 7, settlers living in a settlement “outpost” that violates Israeli law as well as international law injured three Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank, including two women and a man whose arm was broken with a club by the settlers. When Israeli police showed up, they returned the club to the settlers and failed to arrest anyone.
2021 Total figures
4: Number of Palestinians killed by heavily armed Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, including 2 children.
More than 490: Number of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians causing death, injury and/or significant property damage, according to the UN, the highest number ever recorded by the UN.
At least 118: Number of settler attacks that resulted in Palestinian casualties in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem), according to the UN.
More than 9,300: Number of Palestinian olive trees, which are an integral part of Palestinian culture and the West Bank economy, burned or otherwise destroyed by Israeli settlers between August 2020 and August 2021, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. In a statement released in October, the head of the ICRC’s mission in Jerusalem noted:
"For years, the ICRC has observed a seasonal peak in violence by Israeli settlers residing in certain settlements and outposts in the West Bank towards Palestinian farmers and their property in the period leading up to the olive harvest season, as well as during the harvest season itself in October and November… Farmers also experience acts of harassment and violence that aim at preventing a successful harvest, not to mention the destruction of farming equipment, or the uprooting and burning of olive trees. This is an important concern that we continue to share with the [Israeli] authorities in charge.”
238: Number of complaints of settler violence filed with Israeli police by Palestinians between 2018 and 2021, according to Israeli rights group Yesh Din, only 12 of which resulted in indictments, amounting to just 5%. Often, Palestinians don’t bother to file a complaint because they know Israeli authorities rarely take settler violence seriously, because it serves the objectives of Israeli policy in the occupied territories. According to Yesh Din, between 2005 and 2019 Israeli police closed 91% of investigations into reported settler attacks against Palestinians without charging anyone.
Frequently: Israeli soldiers accompany and protect settlers while they assault Palestinians and their property, sometimes joining the attack (see video) and/or detaining or arresting the Palestinian victims instead of the settler perpetrators (see video).
Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails (as of December 2021)
Over the course of 2021, Israel’s occupying army continued to raid Palestinian towns and refugee camps on an almost daily basis, often in the middle of the night, imprisoning thousands of Palestinians as political prisoners, including children and human rights activists. Some recent events of note involving prisoners include:
- On January 18, 2022, Israel renewed the imprisonment of a Palestinian teenager, Amal Nakhleh, who has been imprisoned without charge or trial since January 2021, until at least mid-May. Nakhleh suffers from a rare nerve disorder that causes severe muscle fatigue and had a tumor removed from his lung in 2020. He turned 18-years-old while in prison in January 2022.
- On January 4, Hisham Abu Hawash, a 40-year-old father of five, ended a hunger strike lasting more than 140 days in protest of his imprisonment without charge or trial after Israel agreed to release him on February 26.
- In early January, some 500 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial began a boycott of Israel’s military court system to protest their unjust treatment.
- In September, 2021, six Palestinians escaped from one of Israel’s most secure prisons, capturing the imagination of Palestinians everywhere. Eventually, they were caught and subjected to physical violence by their captors as retribution for the escape. In the case of one of the escapees, Zakaria Zubeidi, Israeli police broke his jaw and two ribs during his recapture.
2021 Total figures
4,550: Number of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, according to Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
500: Number of Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial by Israel using a practice called “administrative detention,” which has been repeatedly condemned as unjust by human rights organizations and the UN.
170: Number of Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel.
32: Number of Palestinian women imprisoned by Israel.
8: Number of Palestinian Legislative Council members imprisoned by Israel.