The spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip will be a massive disaster, resulting entirely from the unique conditions created by more than a decade of Israeli blockade: a failing healthcare system, extreme poverty, dependence on humanitarian aid, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh living conditions that compromise public health – even before exposure to the new virus – combine with overcrowding to form a nightmare scenario.
On 21 Feb. 2020, during the weekly protest against the closure of the eastern entrance to the village of Kfar Qadum since the settlement of Kedumim was expanded, an army bulldozer pushed boulders, placed on the road to obstruct soldiers, towards residents at high speed. The boulders hit a journalist and 10-year-old boy and damaged an ambulance and private car. The military’s well-documented, violent oppression of these demonstrations forms an illegal formal policy of deterring the residents’ legitimate protest against violation of their rights.
As of the end of December 2019, Israel was holding at least 4,544 “security prisoners” in its prisons within Israel and the West Bank. Israel imposes numerous restrictions on family visits to prison – including on the identity of the visitors and the frequency of visits. The visits are organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Every visit to prison involves an entire day of arduous travel and physical and emotional hardship – especially for elderly relatives and children, as seen in the testimonies presented herein.
A new B’Tselem report released today, Playing the Security Card: Israeli Policy in Hebron as a Means to Effect Forcible Transfer of Local Palestinians, demonstrates how Israel has been using security excuses to implement a policy that has made life unbearable for the Palestinian residents of Hebron’s city center (the Old City), in an effort to drive them from their homes. This policy relies on the extreme regime of separation Israel has been implementing in the city for the past 25 years – ever since the massacre of Palestinians carried out by Baruch Goldstein – so as to enable a small number of settlers to live in the heart of a crowded Palestinian city. This policy violates the prohibition against forcible transfer, which constitutes a war crime.
On 4 August 2019, Israeli soldiers stopped B’Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj’ah at a military checkpoint near the Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya, the South Hebron Hills, when they saw he had B’Tselem reports in his car. One of the soldiers at the checkpoint claimed that they had to obtain confirmation that the reports do not constitute incitement material. About 10 minutes later, after the soldiers consulted with their superiors, Nawaj’ah was allowed to go.
Route closures in West Bank villages have long since become a routine method of oppression Israel uses against West Bank residents, based on allegations of stone-throwing. With a single stroke, the military punishes all of the residents of the village and neighboring ones even though they did nothing. In June-July 2019 the military closed the entrances to two villages, Osarin and Deir Nizam, for weeks. There is no connection between stone-throwing by youths in a village, and harming thousands of people. It is an arbitrary abu¬¬se of power by the military.
A week after soldiers, Border Police officers and settlers harassed the Abu Shamsiyeh family, on 16 June 2019, ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh suffered a sunstroke. In the middle of the night, his wife called an ambulance for him but the Israeli military would not allow it into the neighborhood. After a lengthy delay, the EMT staff decided to evacuate Abu Shamsiyeh on foot, a task accomplished only after further argument with the soldiers. This case demonstrates contempt for the health of a patient in need of urgent medical care and clearly illustrates the extent to which Israel controls all aspects of Palestinians’ lives in Hebron. It shows how, for Palestinians, even the most commonplace tasks involve difficulties and uncertainty and, above all, no control over the situation.
Since 1 July 2017, Israel has banned family visits with 100 or so Hamas prisoners from Gaza it is holding in its own territory in defiance of international law. Four prisoners petitioned the HCJ against the ban in August 2017. In June 2019, the court rejected their petition, accepting the wrongful notion that human beings may be used as a means to an end – in this case, pressuring Hamas to return Israeli civilians and the remains of Israeli soldiers it is holding, and completely ignoring the true motivation for the ban, which is sheer revenge.
Isolating the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world has trapped its residents in a small, closed job market, with no prospects of development and no future. The economic there is at an all-time low, after 12 years under an Israeli-imposed blockade and 19 years that Israel has been working to cut Gaza off from the West Bank and has revoked Gaza residents’ permits to work in Israel. In 2018, unemployment in Gaza reached 52%. Israel could change this reality right now. Instead, it chooses to force Gaza residents to live in a state of hopelessness.
On Sun., 5 May 2019, two soldiers approached Palestinian cars parked near the closed gate the military had installed to keep cars from entering the Jaber neighborhood, Hebron. The soldiers demanded that the cars be moved, and one decided to strike the cars with the barrel of his gun. The soldiers threatened to damage the cars if their owners parked there again. Regardless of whether these actions were based on orders or they were an individual soldier’s initiative, the incident is part of the military’s abusive policy toward Palestinians in Hebron, which is why, again, no one will be held to account.
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.