KILLED IN 2005: 197 PALESTINIANS AND 50 ISRAELIS
B`Tselem recently published a summary of its statistics for 2005. Over the past year, Israeli security forces killed 197 Palestinians, among them fifty-four minors. Sixty percent of the Palestinians killed were not taking part in the fighting at the time they were killed. Palestinians killed fifty Israelis inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories, of whom six were minors. Nine of the Israelis killed were members of its security forces.
In 2005, Israel continued to build the separation barrier in the West Bank. The length of the barrier as approved by the Israeli government is 670 kilometers. Approximately 36 percent has been constructed, 25 percent is under construction, 20 percent has been approved but construction has not yet begun, and the remaining 19 percent await final approval. The barrier`s route attaches some 10 percent of the West Bank to Israel, and impedes the lives of 490,000 Palestinians who live in the towns and villages affected.
Security forces currently staff 27 permanent checkpoints inside the West Bank. In addition, Israel operates 26 checkpoints along the Green Line or inside the West Bank that are intended to prevent West Bank Palestinians from entering Israel. There are another 12 checkpoints in Hebron. In addition, there are now 16 checkpoints inside the West Bank that are staffed occasionally, and hundreds of physical obstacles at which security forces are not posted. Palestinian travel is forbidden or restricted on 41 sections of road, a total of approximately 700 kilometers, some of which are intended for Jews only.
On 31 December 2005, the army held 741 Palestinians in administrative detention. No indictment has been filed against these detainees, and they do not know when they will be released.
THOUSANDS OF OLIVE TREES CUT DOWN IN THE WEST BANK
At the Cabinet meeting held on 8 January 2006, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz reported that, over the past three years, 2,400 olive trees of Palestinians had been uprooted or cut down. Officials spoke out against the phenomenon. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the acts as `despicable` and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called them `scandalous.`
The phenomenon is not new. For years, violent settlers have, under security forces` protection, injured Palestinians and damaged Palestinian property in the Occupied Territories. The attacks and damage are well documented and have been brought to the attention of the authorities time and again. For example, in August, B`Tselem and other human rights organizations called on Mazuz to prevent settler violence against Palestinians. Israeli officials who have of late raised their voices against this phenomenon are those who have allowed the IDF to enable these violent acts to continue.
Following recent reports of damage to olive trees by settlers, YESHA [Judea, Samaria, Gaza] Council contended that the cutting of the trees was in fact pruning by the Palestinian farmers as part of the agricultural process to improve yield. B`Tselem requested Prof. Shimon Lavie, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to give his opinion on the matter. Prof. Lavie stated that the council`s contentions were baseless. The kind of damage and the age of the trees indicated that the act was one of destruction, and not pruning.
The government must radically change its policy and provide Palestinian farmers with protection throughout the year, the same way that they protect the settlers. Also, it must enforce the law against violent settlers and compensate the Palestinians for their losses.
SUSPICION: BARRIER BEING USED TO TAKE CONTROL OF PRIVATE LAND
B`Tselem and Bimkom recently uncovered evidence of plans to expand settlements in the Modi`in Illit bloc on privately-owned Palestinian land situated on the `Israeli` side of the separation barrier. This land, comprising hundreds of dunams of farmland, currently lies outside the jurisdictional area of the settlements in the bloc, and outside their official outline plans, and in the master plan for the Modi`in Illit area, are designated for expansion of the settlements.
Some 1,200 housing units are planned for construction on 600 dunams of land. This land is owned by a few families from the nearby village of Bil’in, on which hundreds of old olive trees are planted.
In early November 2005, a new road, running from Matityahu East to the expansion site, was built. In the process, more than one hundred olive trees were uprooted and stolen. On 13 November 2005, following the uprooting and the theft, the Bil`in Village Council filed a complaint with the Police. The building of the road provides further proof of the state`s intention to seize possession of the land near Matityahu East, whose construction was halted last week by the Supreme Court.
Similarly, according to the master plan, cultivated land owned by residents of the Palestinian villages Deir Qadis and N`alin, amounting to some one thousand dunams and situated near Outline Plan 210/6/3 (Matityahu North 3), lies within the area of that outline plan.
In light of the objectives that are apparent in the master plan, there is grave concern that the hidden objective of the barrier is to cause the Palestinian residents to cease working the land that is intended for expansion of the settlements, and thereby enable Israel to declare them state land.
B`TSELEM`S INTERVENTION STOPS MALTREATMENT OF PALESTINIAN FAMILY
On the night of 8 November 2005, soldiers awoke the a-Ramawi family in Beit Rima, Ramallah District, ordered them to go outside, searched the house, and then ordered the adult males to appear the next day at the GSS facility at Ofer Prison. Among those summoned to appear was ‘Ali a-Ramawi, a member of the Palestinian security services and a resident of Ramallah. The father and his other sons appeared as ordered. During the questioning, they realized that the GSS agent wanted them to bring ‘Ali in for questioning. For almost a month, the father and his two sons were required to appear daily at the GSS facility in Ofer Prison. Each time, they were forced to wait many hours in the rain, and underwent physical abuse and repeated questioning. The harassment ended when B`Tselem complained to the Civil Administration and demanded that the abuse cease.
From the testimony of Hamed a-Ramawi, the father:
“The soldiers tied our hands behind our back with plastic cuffs and blindfolded us with pieces of cloth, but I was able to see through it. I heard my sons asking the soldiers to let them change their clothes, but the soldiers refused. Later, they took us by jeep to the Halamish [army] base. At Halamish, they put us into a small room which smelled like a kennel…
“At Ofer, the soldiers put us in a yard outside the GSS offices. We were still blindfolded and our hands were cuffed. The guards forced us to squat on our toes, which hurt terribly and was very tiring, particularly for me. I felt that my legs were going numb. Each time that I moved, the guard ordered me to stay still and remain where I was. My sons, who were sitting next to me, were forbidden to move or speak. They requested that the cuffs be removed or loosened a bit because they were so tight, but the guard refused. He agreed to remove my cuffs only when I asked to go to the bathroom, but there, too, he refused to let me go alone and close the bathroom door behind me. I couldn’t relieve myself with him standing there looking at me. I twice asked him to close the door, but he refused. I asked him twice to close the door, but he refused. Then he finally agreed. While I was relieving myself, he opened the door and I stopped – I wasn`t able to continue. He took me back to the yard, and I sat down. He cuffed my hands again. It hurt me to squat, as before. My legs began to fall asleep, and I couldn’t sit like that any longer. I fell onto the ground. The guard tried to force me to squat. He shouted at me and kicked me, but I refused…
“I worry all the time, and the GSS agent`s threats frighten me. I worry more about my wife and daughters, who remain alone with no one to take care of them. Because I am not working, they don’t even have money to cover household expenses. Rashad supports us, and because of this daily delay, he stopped working and has no income. Muhammad is a laborer and hardly makes enough to cover his family`s expenses, and he is also repaying debts to cover the cost of his recent marriage. If the situation continues, the family, our future, and our security will be destroyed.”
`We also have problems hosting relatives and friends. Whenever people want to visit, we have to get a permit for them. Often, the requests are rejected. Even if they are granted, it usually takes more than a week to receive them. I married off my son Ibrahim two months ago. Only a quarter of the invited guests could attend.`