Palestine: 2019 in Review

January 07, 2020 IMEU
Palestine: 2019 in Review

Image: A picture of Moath al-Sawarka, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in November, sits on his desk next to his classmates in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. November 2019.
Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images.

Palestinians Killed & Injured by Israeli Forces

132: Number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza), according to the United Nations.

28: Number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to Defence for Children International – Palestine.

108: Number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, according to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, including 23 children and 7 women, mostly during the Great March of Return and a deadly two-day assault in November that killed 34 people, including 9 members of the al-Sawarka family, five of them children, a total of more than 300 demonstrators, journalists, and medical personnel, have been killed by Israeli forces during the ongoing Great March of Return protests that began in March 2018, and some 35,000 injured.

More than 15,000: Total number of Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories, including 11,795 in Gaza and 3,492 in the West Bank, according to the UN.


Homes Destroyed & Palestinians Displaced by Israel

617: Number of Palestinian homes and other structures in the occupied territories destroyed or seized by Israel, mostly for being built without permits from Israeli authorities that are “almost impossible to obtain,” according to the UN, including 416 in the West Bank and 201 in East Jerusalem. In many cases, Palestinians are forced to choose between destroying their own homes or paying thousands of dollars for Israel to do it. According to B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “The year 2019 has seen a significant increase in the number of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who have had to demolish their own home, or part of it, after having built it without a permit” noting between January and the end of March 2019 alone, 15 homes were destroyed by their Palestinian owners.

898: Number of Palestinians in the occupied territories displaced by Israel’s destruction or seizure of their homes, including 562 in the West Bank and 336 in East Jerusalem, according to the UN. The number of Palestinians displaced by Israel in the West Bank almost doubled in 2019 over 2018.

49,806: Estimated number of Palestinian homes and other structures destroyed by Israel in the occupied territories since the Israeli military began occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza during the 1967 War, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

More than 13,000: Number of pending Israeli demolition orders against Palestinian homes and other structures in the West Bank.


Expansion of Jewish Settlements Built Illegally on Occupied Palestinian Land

8,337: Number of settlement units approved by Israel to be built on occupied Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law and multiple UN resolutions, according to Israeli government figures. It was the highest number of approvals for construction since 2013 and the third year in a row that the number has increased with US President Donald Trump in office, up from 6,742 in 2017 and 5,618 in 2018.

In December, the Israeli government announced that a new Jewish settlement would be established in the heart of the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank, Hebron. It will be located in the once bustling market in the city center, which has been mostly deserted since the Israeli military sealed the doors of Palestinian businesses and barred Palestinians from travelling on the main road following the massacre of 29 Palestinians by a Jewish-American settler in the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. The plan will approximately double the number of Israeli settlers living illegally in Hebron, from about 800 now. The settlers in Hebron are some of the most fanatical and violent settlers in the occupied territories.

Approximately 650,000: Total number of Jewish Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Approximately 240: Total number of Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, including about 130 official settlements, and 110 nascent settlement “outposts” built in violation of Israeli law as well as international law but with the tacit approval of successive Israeli governments.


Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Jails (as of December 2019)

5000: Number of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, according to Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

458: Number of Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial by Israel using a practice called “administrative detention.”

185: Number of Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel, including 24 under the age of 16.

41: Number of Palestinian women imprisoned by Israel.

7: Number of Palestinian Legislative Council members imprisoned by Israel.

889: Total number of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in 2019.

More than 5,500: Total number of Palestinians arrested by the Israeli military in 2019.


Israeli Settler Violence

75: Number of violent attacks carried out by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that resulted in casualties, according to the UN. In one incident, settlers beat and broke the arm of an 80-year-old Israeli rabbi who was attempting to help Palestinians harvest their olive crops in the West Bank, assaulting four foreign volunteers as well.

1: Number of Palestinians killed by settlers in 2019. Thirty-eight-year-old father of four Hamdi Nassan was shot and killed by settlers during a confrontation on the outskirts of his village in the West Bank in January.

265: Number of attacks carried out by Jewish settlers against Palestinians that caused property damage, according to the UN.

More than 1,000: Number of Palestinian olive trees damaged by settlers during the autumn harvest season, according to the UN. Settlers also stole several tons of fruit from Palestinian farmers. Many more olive trees were damaged or destroyed by settlers during the rest of the year.

Hundreds: The number of Palestinian vehicles vandalized or destroyed by Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, including 160 in one incident alone in East Jerusalem in December.

Often, Israeli soldiers accompanied and protected settlers while they attacked Palestinians and their property. According to B’Tselem, which “documented dozens of instances in which settlers assaulted Palestinian farmers, stole olives and vandalized trees, farming equipment and work tools” during the 2019 harvest, all the attacks “occurred under the noses of soldiers, who are almost always present in the area, in military posts or at nearby lookouts.”


Notable Events of 2019

  • US President Donald Trump continued his assault on Palestinian rights on behalf of Israel, including:
    • In June, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner, who has longstanding close family ties to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s illegal settlement movement, held a two-day “economic workshop” in Bahrain intended to generate investments for the occupied Palestinian territories as part of Trump’s diplomatic plan for Palestine/Israel. The meeting was boycotted by Palestinian officials over Trump’s decision to reverse longstanding US policy by siding with Israel on core issues like recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian East Jerusalem, and the belief that the Kushner-drafted diplomatic plan is based on Netanyahu’s previously proposed “economic peace” plan, whereby Palestinians are expected to give up their demands for freedom and self-determination in exchange for economic inducements.
    • In November, Trump reversed decades of official US policy that deemed Israeli settlements illegal, in line with the UN and rest of the international community, rewarding Israeli leaders for decades of systematic violations of international law. The announcement came after Netanyahu pledged to formally annex “all the settlements” built illegally on Palestinian land in the West Bank.
    • In December, Trump issued an Executive Order targeting Palestinian-American student activists and their allies under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism. Amongst other things, the executive order defines anti-Semitism to include “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and threatens to withhold funding from public institutions that allow campus boycott or other campaigns against human rights abuses committed by Israel.
  • Israel had two national elections, in April and September, but the results were inconclusive, with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his rivals unable to form a governing coalition, resulting in a third election on March 2, 2020. Both campaigns were marked by racist and violent rhetoric and incitement directed against Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise about 20% of Israel’s population. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinians who live under Israeli military rule in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, continued to be disenfranchised and denied the right to vote for the government that has controlled virtually every aspect of their lives for more than 50 years.
  • Israel continued to impose its illegal siege on the two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza while the Great March of Return continued. Over the course of 2019, Palestinians in Gaza continued to protest against Israel’s more than decade-long siege and naval blockade of the tiny coastal strip and for the realization of the internationally-recognized legal right of Palestinian refugees to return to the lands they were expelled from during Israel’s establishment in 1948. The siege has been repeatedly condemned by the UN and human rights organizations as a form of collective punishment against the entire population of Gaza, which is prohibited under international law. About 1.3 million of the nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are refugees originating in what is Israel today, prevented from returning to the homeland they were expelled from because they are not Jewish.
  • In August, Israel prevented Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the occupied West Bank as part of a visiting delegation. Omar and Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and Tlaib the first Palestinian-American woman. Tlaib has family in the West Bank and was planning to visit her grandmother during the trip. Israel has barred members of Congress from entering occupied Gaza before, but Tlaib and Omar’s case is believed to be the first time that Israel has completely denied entry to members of the US Congress and reflects the widening gap between Israel, which continues to move rightward, and Democratic voters and lawmakers.
  • In December, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced that she had found sufficient evidence to open an investigation into war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories pending a decision on jurisdiction. Palestinian officials welcomed the announcement as a step towards justice while the Israeli government condemned it, smearing the ICC as anti-Semitic.