In the month of December 2020 Staat van Beleg could list 898 human rights violations (and 162 reports/ analyses). (see our archive) This month we look back at the year 2020.
The year 2020 was another hectic year in occupied Palestine. Like the rest of the world, Palestine was in the grip of the COVID-19 virus, but Israeli violations continued unabated. In some cases, COVID-19 has even been an excuse for new violations and harassment, such as withholding hygiene products from Palestinian prisoners, using the pandemic as a means of intimidation, and Israeli soldiers spitting on Palestinian car doors and front doors in an attempt to spread the virus.
In the year 2020, we were able to register a total of 9,587 Israeli violations, an average of more than 26 new violations per day. In 2019 there were 8828 violations.
Looking at the nature of these violations, the most worrying development is that there were 1,208 cases of annexation, demolition and illegal construction last year. In 2019 there were 763, which represents an enormous increase of more than 58%. Since the encouragement of the Trump administration, Israel is losing no time and illegal annexation plans are rapidly being realized despite international criticism and UN condemnation.
The largest category of violations is again that of the Israeli raids and arrests / kidnappings. There were 4,404 in 2020, compared to 3,677 in 2019. So here too a significant increase of almost 20%.
The second most common violation is that of violence, intimidation and destruction. With 1,420 cases, this category accounts for 14.8% of all violations, with the vast majority of cases involving direct violence, often involving several victims per incident. In 2019 there were 1,692, a decrease of 16%. The difference is easy to explain, because in 2019 the Gaza Strip saw the weekly “Great Return March” protests, which involved a lot of Israeli violence. These massive protests have stopped since December 2019.
Israel did carry out many airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in 2020, a 162 in total. One of the lows was the December 26 airstrike on the Mohammad Al-Durra Children’s Hospital and a rehabilitation center for the disabled. The attack caused widespread damage, and deeply frightened the children, their families and the hospital staff, whose lives were threatened by such indiscriminate airstrikes.
Bombing of civilian areas is prohibited by international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. Several children, including a 6-year-old girl, were injured in the air raids and significant damage was done to homes and property.
The next category is that of restrictions. With 1,266 cases, we registered 63 more than in 2019. Most of the cases involved violating the right to demonstrate at small-scale protests in the West Bank and violating the right to freedom of movement.
We use a separate category for violations committed by Israeli (illegal) settlers, but it should be noted that Israel has a tolerance policy and it is therefore also an institutional problem. Settlers who commit physical violence, cut down olive trees, destroy cars, make threats or otherwise terrorize the Palestinian indigenous population are only rarely persecuted (and at best lightly punished) or even receive help and protection from Israeli occupation soldiers in committing their crimes. In 2020 we registered 767 violations by settlers. That is 76 more than in 2019, an increase of 11%.
Then the violations against Palestinian prisoners. Although there is a decrease in the number of incidents with 345 cases (498 in 2019), the nature of the incidents is such that more victims are involved. We mentioned it at the beginning of this article. COVID-19 brought a variety of new ways to collectively harass, intimidate and oppress Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has also passed a law to impose stricter rules. In March, the Israeli authorities decided to reduce the rations of bread, water and meat for Palestinian prisoners. Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinians’ fundamental rights in prisons, including torture and denial of medical treatment, have long been in the spotlight.
A small proportion of the violations concern the fishermen and farmers in the Gaza Strip. We registered 68 violations that were serious enough to make the local news, but the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights registered as many as 309. Most of the cases we registered involve Israeli naval vessels opening fire on Palestinian fishermen and damaging or confiscating their boats so that fishermen can no longer or insufficiently exercise their profession. Other violations include the destruction or confiscation of fishing nets, generators and other equipment.
In the year 2020 there were 51 fatalities as a result of the Israeli occupation. In 2019, there were 180, of which 76 were shot during the massive Great Return March in the Gaza Strip.
As the graph above shows, most of the fatalities were shot by Israeli soldiers.
The youngest victim was only 13 years old. Ali Ayman Abu Elayah was gunned down in his village near Ramallah on December 4, where he took part in a peaceful demonstration when Israeli army vehicles raided the village and began attacking the protesters with bullets and grenades. Ali was badly injured in the stomach area and was rushed to hospital in Ramallah where he died of his injury.
The oldest victim of Israeli bullets is 56-year-old Abdel Nasser Halawa. Abdel was deaf and could not speak. It was August 17 when he was on his way to his sister and had to pass the military Qalandiya checkpoint and could not hear the Israeli soldiers shouting at him. The soldiers stated that they opened fire on him because he “did not heed the order to stop” and “behaved suspiciously”. He didn’t die of his injuries until December.
More than a quarter of all fatalities are still underage and another 21.6% of the victims have not yet reached the age of 24.
In only 4 cases the victims were female. The logical explanation for this is that most victims fall during demonstrations in which mainly boys and men participate.
One of the women who was killed was even in her own home when she was shot. 23-year-old Dalia Assamoudi from Jenin wanted to close the window to keep out the tear gas fired at Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces. Unfortunately, tear gas was not the only thing the Israeli soldiers fired, and Dalia died of her injuries, leaving two small children behind.