Two recent reports released by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA oPT), on June 18 and 24, describe the blatant human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian population in the three occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
The two reports cover May 2020 and the first fifteen days of June 2020, respectively, and compile data on acts committed by the Israeli government, armed forces and intelligence services to subjugate and oppress Palestinians in the occupied territories. They assume even more significance in light of the controversial annexation plan announced by Israel, targeting large parts of the occupied West Bank, including all illegal settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley.
The unilateral plan, in the pipeline since 2016, is designed to extend Israeli sovereignty over all areas where the illegal settlements have been built. The annexed territory would no longer be included in any future negotiations for a two-state solution if Israel goes ahead with the move in violation of international law. Palestinians have asserted that the annexation would make the establishment of a viable, contiguous and independent Palestinian state impossible, rendering any negotiations pointless and dead from the start.
The UN reports highlight that Israel is already executing its annexation plans in other parts of Palestine, and point to the ongoing Israeli apartheid against Palestinians. As per the first report on the displacement of Palestinians and demolition of their residential buildings and other structures, Israeli authorities demolished or confiscated 50 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank in May. This resulted in 28 people being internally displaced, while 220 others were also affected, either losing their means of livelihood or being cut off from basic essential services. Such measures further hamper the already degraded quality of life under Israeli occupation.
17 of the 50 structures were demolished or seized on May 27 alone, the highest tally recorded for a single day since June 12 last year. All of them, excluding two structures in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, were targeted citing the lack of proper building permits from Israeli authorities. These construction permits are extremely hard to obtain for Palestinians, a fact that Israeli authorities repeatedly use to target Palestinian buildings and structures for demolition or confiscation.
Two of the affected structures were built through international humanitarian financial assistance of nearly EUR 10,500. Four other structures, also built with humanitarian aid, have been served demolition orders or verbal warnings. The report recorded a 20% increase in such Israeli activity in May compared to the monthly average for the year 2020 so far.
It also pointed to the utter disregard held by Israel for international law, issues of humanitarian concerns, and the religious sensitivities of the occupied population. Israel has increased its demolition activity despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 42 structures were demolished or seized during Ramadan, considerably higher than the the 13 which were demolished/seized during the same period in 2019, one in 2018 and zero in 2017.
Occupied East Jerusalem also witnessed its first demolitions/seizures since the month of March, with 11 structures demolished in May. Seven of these, including three homes, in the Al Walaja neighborhood, were demolished on May 18 for the planned construction of an Israeli National park. The Palestinians owners were not given any advance verbal or written warnings or demolition orders. As a result, six people, including three children, were displaced, and 13 others were affected.
The report documents several ‘self-demolitions’ in May, when Palestinian owners demolished their own properties to avoid paying ‘demolition fees’ charged by Israeli authorities. Faced with certain demolition of their properties by Israel, which is often violent and unsafe, people chose to save their personal belongings and surrounding structures from damage by carrying out the demolitions themselves.
The second report for the period between June 2-15 shows that Israeli violations have in fact increased compared to the last month. All the different metrics used in the report to record Israeli excesses and crimes indicate that US support under the administration of President Donald Trump has emboldened the Israeli regime to commit atrocities. This has been compounded due to inaction by the international community which has done little but make occasional symbolic gestures and routinely release customary statements of condemnation.
Israel demolished 70 Palestinian structures, displacing 90 people and otherwise affecting 280, in a span of 15 days in June. This is a staggering 250% spike compared to the weekly average in 2020 so far. Israeli security forces also injured 25 Palestinians, including 9 children, during protests that took place in the occupied West Bank this month against settlement expansion and Israeli restrictions on Palestinians. The report also states that 190 Palestinians were extra-judicially abducted in 120 raids carried out by the Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Gaza strip, under a crippling land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel since 2006, is also seeing a growing number of Israeli attacks and restrictions on Palestinians. Israeli forces have attacked Palestinians in Gaza with live fire at least 35 times within a short period of two weeks. They have also invaded Gaza on five occasions and carried out violent and illegal land-leveling and excavation operations near the Israel-Gaza border on the pretext of finding and demolishing Palestinian tunnels. Israeli settlers living in the Israeli communities on the border with Gaza have also attacked Palestinians routinely. 10 Palestinians were recorded to have suffered injuries because of such settler attacks. 10 vehicles and 90 olive trees were also destroyed by Israeli settlers, adversely affecting the livelihoods of many Palestinians in Gaza.
These reports make it abundantly evident that even during these fraught times with an ongoing pandemic, Palestinians have no respite from the Israeli occupation’s countless human rights violations and war crimes. In its most severe form, the occupation is responsible for the injuries and deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians. However, it also relentlessly pursues its apartheid against Palestinians in other ways. Israel has increased its demolitions and confiscation of Palestinians lands and structures. Attacks by the Israeli security forces and suppression of Palestinian resistance is also rising.