In August 2020, settlers attacked homes and property in ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah several times, escorted by soldiers who did nothing to protect the Palestinians. Residents of the village, surrounded by settlements, have been suffering from repeated settler assaults for years. Among many occurring throughout the West Bank, these attacks form part of an established Israeli policy that does not deem settler violence against Palestinians as criminal or illegitimate acts. Instead, Israel gives settlers near-full backing, as they serve its purposes.
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.
On the night of 9 July 2020, Israeli soldiers chased two Palestinian teens who had thrown a firebomb at a military watchtower by the entrance to Kifl Hares, a village near Salfit. While in pursuit, the soldiers opened fire and injured one of them. B’Tselem’s investigation found that one of the shots killed passerby Ibrahim Abu Ya'qub (34), out for an evening stroll. This shocking case demonstrates the expendability of Palestinian lives for Israel, as the soldiers opened fire regardless of the danger of shooting within a civilian community.
On 23 June 2020, around midnight, soldiers stopped a car at a flying checkpoint outside Hebron and ordered the driver, Mu’tasem Qawasmeh, 24, and the two friends who were with him to get out and stand by the side of the road. They then assaulted Qawasmeh while keeping his friends from intervening. The assault ended when a military jeep arrived. Qawasmeh said: “I got home at 4:00 A.M. My wife and son were awake, waiting for me. I hugged my son and burst out crying. I was exhausted and felt helpless.”
Some 2 million Gazans suffer from a constant shortage of water, which gets worse in summer. The tap water is salty, polluted and undrinkable. Much has been written about Gaza’s water crisis and collapsing infrastructure under the Israeli blockade. Here, five Gazans describe their unbearable daily reality: the endless pursuit of water, the damage the salty water causes to their physical and mental health and to their belongings, and the financial burden of buying drinking water they can barely afford.
On 25 June and 7 July 2020, dozens of soldiers raided two homes of the Abu Hashhsash family in al-Fawwar R.C. under the pretext of searching for three family members. In one home, soldiers attacked family members, and in another, they beat a minor and set a dog on him and on other relatives. In both cases, the ISA threatened the soldiers would return unless the wanted persons turned themselves in. Military raids of Palestinian homes at night are by now a fixture in the violent routine of the occupation – even at the height of a pandemic.
On Thursday, 25 June 2020, soldiers detained Walid Ghazal on his way to work in central Hebron and, for no apparent reason, ordered him at gunpoint to undress. Ghazal took his top shirt off, but the soldiers insisted he strip completely in public. After relatives intervened and other soldiers arrived, he was taken to a police station, where he was detained for three hours. This case is not an exception; it is part of the violent routine of physical and verbal abuse that Israeli security forces impose on Palestinians throughout the West Bank.
State-backed settler violence against Palestinians has become a routine part of the occupation. In two cases documented in March and April, settlers not only harmed Palestinians and their property but claimed the victims had been the ones to attack them. Settlers are backed by the military and receive nearly automatic impunity, while Palestinians are guilty until proven innocent. If a settler files a report against a Palestinian, the latter is immediately arrested and given high bail for conditional release – even when there is no evidence.
On 25 May 2020, Israeli media reported that two Palestinians had tried to stab soldiers in the West Bank. B’Tselem’s investigation found that, in fact, a settler had called soldiers claiming that Palestinians were attacking settlers. When the soldiers arrived, they opened fire without warning at farmers who were uninvolved in any alleged clashes, injuring two. The policy of collusion between settlers and the military assists the dispossession of Palestinians, who are afraid to enter their land for fear of violent attacks.
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.