Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gaza: Breaches of international humanitarian law by Israel and Hamas have yet to be properly investigated

Source: B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

* 83 Palestinians and 7 Israelis killed in conflict since operation Cast Lead

* Israel demolished 92 homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 2009. Home demolition was frozen in East Jerusalem in 2010

B'Tselem has published its annual report on human rights in the Occupied Territories, covering the 16-month period from January 2009 to April 2010. The report surveys the events since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead. One and a half years after the operation, the allegations regarding breaches of international humanitarian law by Israel and Hamas have yet to be properly investigated.

Since the end of the Operation, there have been some important human rights improvements. The number of Israeli and Palestinian fatalities was much lower than in previous years and the number of administrative detainees continued to decline. In the West Bank, Israel removed some of its restrictions on Palestinian movement, and two changes made in the Separation Barrier connected some Palestinian communities that had been separated from the West Bank for almost six years. The Jerusalem Municipality froze house demolition in East Jerusalem in 2010. Most of these improvements, however, did not result from changes in Israeli policy or legislation, but are the result of the relative calm in the conflict.

In other areas, the violations continued as in the past. The general lack of accountability in cases where security forces are suspected of harming Palestinians remained in place. Israeli civilians who injured Palestinians and damaged Palestinian property were also generally not prosecuted for these attacks. Although Israel declared a freeze on construction in the settlements, the settlement enterprise continued to have severe repercussions for Palestinians’ human rights. The Jerusalem Municipality expedited the handling of a few plans to build settlements in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The Separation Barrier continued to isolate a number of villages in the West Bank from their surrounding areas and detached farmers from their farmland. Israel continued to restrict Palestinian access to extensive areas in the West Bank, such as East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and land west of the Separation Barrier, and generally treated Palestinian freedom of movement as a privilege it may retract at will.

Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip remained. The almost total prohibition on the import of raw materials and on exports continued to paralyze local industry, and more than 70 percent of Gazans relied on aid from international organizations to obtain food. With the restrictions on the entry of raw materials, it was impossible to reconstruct the buildings Israel destroyed during Operation Cast Lead. Many items that Israel did not allow into the Strip, as well as weapons and ammunition, were smuggled in through the tunnels. The tunnels, which increase the power of Hamas, which controls them, cannot form the basis of a stable economy.

B'Tselem’s executive director, Jessica Montell, said, upon publication of the report: “This week marks the 43rd anniversary of the conclusion of the 1967 war, which was also the beginning of Israel’s occupation. As long as Israel controls millions of Palestinians, it must also safeguard their rights. The ongoing occupation both violates many of those rights, and poses clear dangers for Israel’s democracy. For this reason we, as Israelis, must demand accountability for actions taken in our name in the Occupied Territories and work to change in policies that infringe human rights.”

Statistics from the report

Palestinians and Israelis killed from 1 January 2009 to 30 April 2010 (not including fatalities in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead)

From 19 January 2009 to 30 April 2010, Israeli security forces killed 83 Palestinians, 20 of them minors, not including the Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead. Of that number, 31 of the Palestinians killed, some thirty-seven percent, were not taking part in hostilities. Most of the fatalities (67 percent) were residents of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians killed three Israeli civilians, one a 16-year-old minor, and four members of the security forces. Additionally, two police officers were killed by unknown persons in the Jordan Valley.
Nine Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by members of Palestinian security apparatuses or by persons who identified themselves as such. In addition, two Palestinians were executed after being convicted of collaboration with Israel.

Slower pace in building the Separation Barrier

In 2009, work on the Separation Barrier slowed appreciably. According to figures of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only four kilometers were added in 2009. Of the planned 709 kilometers, 413 kilometers have been completed (58 percent). Despite two changes that were implemented following High Court rulings, the Barrier continued to severely harm tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Restrictions on movement, though eased, continue

In early February 2010, there were 44 staffed checkpoints inside the West Bank, compared with 64 in 2008. Eighteen of these were in Hebron. In October 2009, there were 488 physical roadblocks – dirt piles, obstructions, gates, and sections of road closed to Palestinians – compared with an average of 537 in the first nine months of 2008. Along the Separation Barrier, there were 39 checkpoints, 19 of which were the last inspection point prior to entering Israel.

House demolitions and restrictions on Palestinian building

From the beginning of 2009 to the end of April 2010, the Civil Administration demolished 44 residential structures built without a permit in Area C, which is under complete Israel control and comprises approximately 60 percent of the West Bank, leaving 317 Palestinians homeless. More than half of the demolitions took place in Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley.
In 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 48 buildings in East Jerusalem, in which 247 Palestinians lived, compared with 89 buildings in 2008. In 2010, until the end of April, the Municipality did not demolish any homes in East Jerusalem.

Steady drop in number of administrative detainees

In the past two years, there has been a steady drop in the number of administrative detainees. On 30 April 2010, the number stood at 222. Of the 237 detainees held at the end of March 2009, 55 percent had been in administrative detention for six months to one year, and 35 percent for one to two years. Twenty-five had been held from two to four consecutive years, and one detainee had been in administrative detention for more than four and a h