The Minister of Defense's designation of prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, among them our colleagues in the Palestinian human rights community, as terrorist organizations, is a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work. Documentation, advocacy, and legal aid are fundamental activities for the protection of human rights worldwide. Criminalizing such work is an act of cowardice, characteristic of repressive authoritarian regimes.
The horror in the Gaza Strip has been going on for so many years. We have reported on the blockade, the poverty, the wars. We have shared stories of life without water, without electricity, without hope. We have explained what international law requires and what conscience dictates. Now, words fail us. Eleven days of incessant airstrikes on or near civilian homes. With nowhere to run and no safe place. Almost 230 people killed, thousands injured, thousands more bereft of their homes and all their earthly possessions. This is not a mistake, these are no “exceptional cases”. It is the policy. B’Tselem’s field researchers in the Gaza Strip spoke with people who lost their loved ones, their homes, literally everything. These are their words.
On 29 Aug. 2021, dozens of settlers raided the community of al-Mufaqarah, stoned residents and homes, and damaged property. The attack, one of the most severe recalled by residents, injured several villagers, including a toddler whose skull was fractured. Soldiers who came to the scene fired tear gas canisters at community residents, many of whom suffered gas inhalation. Only after an hour did the settlers leave the area and move to the nearby village of a-Tuwani, where they attacked a house with stones and injured residents trying to defend it. In the past year, settler attacks in Safar Yatta have intensified, as part of Israel's policy of expelling Palestinians and taking over their lands.
On 29 Aug. 2021, settlers stoned homes in the Jaber neighborhood of Hebron in front of soldiers, injuring a Palestinian in the head and vandalizing nine cars. When the residents tried to fend off the settlers by throwing stones, soldiers opened live fire. Police arrived at the scene only after the settlers left, and despite the presence of military security cameras, demanded proof that settlers had caused the damage. This incident reflects Israeli policy, which utilizes settler violence as a tool for expelling Palestinians from their homes.
On 17 August 2021, teens from Silat a-Daher in Jenin District set out to picnic on village land. Settlers who came to the scene grabbed one of them, knocked him down with their car and tied him to it with an iron chain, and then drove to the former site of the settlement of Homesh, where they abused him until he lost consciousness. They beat and kicked him, hung him in the air, cut his feet and burned them, and pepper-sprayed him in the eyes. After he lost consciousness, he was handed over to soldiers, who passed him on to family members.
On Friday, 30 July 2021, security forces attacked the participants in Shawqat Za'aqiq funeral, who was fatally shot by troops in Beit Ummar. During the clashes, in which the participants threw stones, Border Police commandeered the roof of Manal 'Awad’s home, overlooking the village’s main street, and ordered her to serve as a human shield and carry objects upstairs for them, with her children locked up in her apartment. In 2005, the HCJ barred the military from using Palestinians as human shields, but soldiers continue to do so occasionally.
On 23 July 2021, soldiers and a military jeep entered a-Nabi Saleh and advanced towards its center in an operation that appears to have been intended for provocation only. Upon reaching the village center, young men began throwing stones at them. At one point, the soldiers began retreating while firing and sheltering behind the jeep. On their way out, they encountered a blockade set up by the young men, as the stone-throwing continued intensively. One of the soldiers shot Muhammad Tamimi (17) in the back, who died of his wounds at the hospital.
On 1 June 2021, before dawn, Israeli troops raided two homes of the extended Shteiwi family in Kafr Qadum. They woke the inhabitants, separated them, conducted violent searches and severely beat two family members, one of them 17. They arrested Bashar Shteiwi, who was released two weeks later. In late June, soldiers again arrested Bashar – who has since been released – and his brother, who is still in custody. Military incursions into Palestinian homes at night have become integral to the occupation routine in the West Bank.
Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, 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.