B’Tselem in brief – June 2017

B’Tselem in brief – June 2017

By Khaled al-‘Azayzeh
Gaza Field Researcher, B’Tselem

On 6 July, we were still getting only four hours of electricity at a time. Then we had to do without for 12 hours – and that’s even after Egypt allowed fuel tanks into Gaza. We’ve had a low power supply for a decade, but until now we used to get eight hours at a time. Now it’s gone down to half of that.

The power cuts affect every aspect of life in Gaza. Without electricity, our water and sewage systems cannot function. The summer is scorching hot, and we have nowhere to go. Most people cannot cool or ventilate their apartments or even keep the light on. We have no choice but to buy purified water at 2.80 USD per 200 liters, which is a heavy expense for most families. Despite health ministry warnings, people bathe in the sewage-filled sea because it is the only way to escape the heat. My work is affected, too: Imagine going to take testimony from someone who lives on the 12th floor without being able to use the elevator or a fan, imagine their mental state.

Over the ten years I’ve been working with B’Tselem, things have deteriorated. Israel has not let up the blockade; we don’t have enough power or potable water, and we can’t go in and out of Gaza. Some people try to find independent solutions, at considerable cost. I’ve bought five generators since the blockade started, and a lot of fuel to power them. But these temporary improvisations don’t really improve the intolerable reality we live in. Every month I wonder: How will I provide my family with enough power and water? What will happen to my children, who graduated university but are sitting at home? What kind of future can they have?

I ask you to take a moment to imagine living in my place. What would you do, if you were me? Gaza is full of people just like you and me. We want to travel, meet people, study, be happy. We just want to live normal lives.

8 Hours of Power a Day in Gaza:  For a decade, some 2 million Palestinians have lived under an Israeli-imposed blockade in Gaza. Their access to regular power supply and running water is severely restricted and sewage flows into the streets. Israel created this humanitarian crisis, with its fatal consequences – and Israel can choose to end it. It cannot blame the impending catastrophe on the Palestinian Authority’s cruel policy toward the residents of Gaza. Israel must flip the switch back on. Now.

• Israel is pursuing a policy aimed at minimizing the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. To that end, homes are demolished on the grounds that they were built without a permit – a cynical excuse, given that the same authorities withhold these permits from Palestinians.
With no avenue available to them to build legally, Palestinians are left with no choice but to build their homes without permits, and then live in constant fear of losing them and their sources of livelihood to demolition. The state is forcing tens of thousands of people to live in inhuman conditions, without basic living conditions and with no hope or possibility of bettering their situation. This policy, implemented on the ground for years, is unlawful and immoral. It constitutes the forcible transfer of protected Palestinian residents within occupied territory.

Israel’s CA uproots hundreds of fruit trees and ruins crops on privately owned Palestinian land in Jordan Valley.
“They destroyed our hopes. The shock and helplessness made our wives cry. We had put everything we had into those date palms. My married sons even took out loans to cover the costs. We had pinned a lot of hope on those trees, and we watched them grow. These trees were supposed to provide for more than 30 people and we were all waiting for them to grow and start bearing fruit.” – Muhammad Zubeidat, 59
In May and April 2017, Israeli forces raided two Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley, uprooting and confiscating olive and date palm trees, and ruining fields of melon and fakus [Armenian cucumber], all on privately owned Palestinian land.

Settlers attack Huwarah homes, wounding three, including 68-yr-old woman tending sheep near home.

Israeli settlers from Yitzhar assaulted a 68-year-old Palestinian woman until she lost consciousness. They also assaulted other members of her family. Israeli security forces who arrived at the scene did not arrest any of the assailants. Hadil, the woman’s 17-year-old granddaughter, recalled:
“I saw about eight or ten settlers going up to my grandmother. They threw stones at her and hit her. She fell down. I started crying and screaming: “Grandma! Grandma! Save Grandma!” I was crying. I didn’t know what to do…”
Badi’ah ‘Odeh, 68, was hospitalized for three days with a concussion. Her son-in-law Mohammed ‘Odeh suffered a wound to his hand, and his brother Ahmad ‘Odeh was injured by a stone that hit him in the head. Israeli security forces who arrived on the scene did not arrest any of the settlers involved in the attack, and simply let them leave.

• On 15 May 2017, Israeli navy soldiers shot and killed Muhammad Baker, 25, from a-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza. B’Tselem’s investigation found the soldiers opened fire when Muhammad’s boat was 3 nautical miles off the coast within the zone in which the military permits Gazans to fish. As long as this routine continues, innocent fishermen will continue to risk arrest, injury or death to make a living. No one in Israel will be held accountable for the attacks and the usual whitewashing formalities will be applied.

Israeli sniper fatally shoots 22-year-old Palestinian who posed no danger at a-Nabi Saleh weekly protest
On 12 May 2017, during a protest against settlers’ takeover of a-Nabi Saleh village land, a sniper fired live ammunition at Sabaa ‘Obeid, 22, killing him. ‘Obeid – who had been throwing stones at soldiers from 80 meters away and posed no real threat – was shot as he was moving away. Regulations and officials both state that lethal gunfire is not to be used under such circumstances and is limited to cases of mortal danger and as a last resort. In practice, soldiers operate under other orders, using lethal measures in a variety of circumstances, resulting in injuries and fatalities.

B’Tselem field researchers detained by Israel Police while documenting movement restrictions in Hebron.
B’Tselem field researchers Manal al-Ja’bri and Musa Abu Hashhash were detained 18 June in Hebron while documenting the increase in movement restrictions imposed by the military at the Bakery Checkpoint. Over the years, B’Tselem field researchers and volunteers have repeatedly reported instances in which security forces prevented them from documenting human rights abuses, detaining them for hours on end and confiscating cameras. These actions stand in stark contradiction to the law, as well as to assurances that B’Tselem has received from the military and the Border Police that there is no impediment to B’Tselem staff and volunteers filming incidents in the Occupied Territories, as long as their actions do not interfere with the security forces’ mission.

• B’Tselem Executive Director speaks about 50 years of Israeli occupation.
Several events were recently held in Brussels, Stockholm and Copenhagen to mark the milestone of 50 years since the Israeli occupation began. B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad delivered a talk at two of these events – at the Swedish parliament on 7 June and at the Danish parliament on 9 June – saying: “For every moment of the last fifty years, we have all lived – and too many of us have died – in violence. It permeates the air in the occupied territories – for the oppression of one people by another is, by definition, violence. It can take the form of a bureaucrat denying a permit, or a soldier squeezing a trigger. Either way, every single day, it is violence – and it must end.” For the full text of El-Ad’s speech, click here.

Israeli soldiers detain Baraa Kan’an, a 19-year-old Palestinian, then abuse him for 7 hours.
On 12 May 2017, in a-Nabi Saleh, soldiers stopped an ambulance and removed Baraa Kan’an, 19, who was accompanying an injured person. The soldiers blindfolded Kan’an and took him to an unknown location where they abused him for hours, beating him, making death threats and covering him in earth, eventually leaving him out alone on a road. This abuse did not take place in a vacuum. Over the years, B’Tselem has documented many such violent incidents, which would not have taken place had the abusers not known they would have the full support of senior officials, and would not be held accountable.

• Collective punishment:
Israeli security forces punish town of Silwad, near Ramallah, for car-ramming attack by local resident. On 6 April 2017 a Silwad resident ran over and killed one soldier and injured another. He was arrested at the scene. For the next two months, Israeli security forces collectively punished the town: blocking roads, raiding homes at night, confiscating money and cars, and revoking Israeli work permits. The military disrupted the lives of more than 10,000 people who did nothing wrong and were suspected of no wrongdoing. This disruption of daily life is morally and legally indefensible, and is entirely based on a policy of violence that cynically exploits the military’s authority in order to abuse and intimidate a civilian population.

Military disrupting life in Deir Abu Mash’al for 2 weeks, since 3 residents killed Border Police officer. On 16 June 2017, three Palestinians from Deir Abu Mash’al killed Israeli Border Police officer Hadas Malka and wounded four other people in East Jerusalem. They were immediately killed by Israeli security forces. Since then, the military has disrupted the daily lives of all 5,000 residents of the village, although they have been accused of no wrongdoing. This form of automatic retaliation has become a policy in which the military cynically abuses its power to mistreat civilians. This collective harm is morally and legally indefensible.

• Israel’s CA confiscates solar panels from a community which Israel refuses to hook up to power grid.
On 28 June 2017, Israeli authorities seized 96 solar panels from the Palestinian village of Jubet a-Dib, which Israel refuses to hook up to the power grid. The panels supplied power to 160 people, a daycare center and a mosque. Jubet a-Dib, near Bethlehem, is one of many West Bank communities in which Israel has made life unbearable, by denying them building permits and a connection to power and water grids. In contrast, the blooming settlements nearby enjoy all these privileges. The nonprofit Comet-ME helps such communities by connecting them to solar panels and wind turbines that generate electricity. Yet Israel regularly seizes this equipment, preventing residents any chance of leading a reasonable life.