Annual Report: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories 2013

State of Israel

Head of state Shimon Peres

Head of government Benjamin Netanyahu

The Israeli authorities held more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 178 administrative detainees at the end of the year, after a temporary decrease in numbers following Palestinian and international protests. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees during arrest and interrogation was reported. Israel's military blockade of the Gaza Strip continued to severely affect Gaza's 1.6 million residents. In November, Israel launched an eight-day military campaign against Palestinian armed groups who fired rockets indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel; more than 160 Palestinians as well as six Israelis were killed, including many civilians. Both sides violated international humanitarian law in the conflict. The Israeli authorities continued to restrict the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, construct the fence/wall, and expand illegal Israeli settlements while failing to protect Palestinians and their property from settler violence. They also continued to demolish Palestinian homes and carry out forced evictions. The Israeli military continued to use excessive force against protesters in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); in addition to 100 civilians killed during the November conflict in Gaza, Israeli forces killed at least 35 civilians in the OPT during the year. Palestinian citizens of Israel faced discrimination in housing and residency rights, and continued home demolitions, particularly in the Negev/Naqab region. Thousands of people seeking international protection were detained administratively under a new law implemented in June. Israeli forces responsible for the killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees continued to evade accountability.

Background

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not resume. Relations worsened after Palestine was recognized as a non-member observer state by the UN General Assembly in November. In response, Israel announced settlement expansion plans and withheld customs payments due to the PA. In March, Israel withdrew its co-operation with the UN Human Rights Council after the Council established a fact-finding committee to “investigate the implications” of Israeli settlements on Palestinians in the OPT.

In July, a government-appointed committee concluded that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank did not violate international law, despite the weight of international legal findings to the contrary, and recommended that the government formalize unauthorized settler outposts. For the first time in seven years, 14 new outposts and settlements were established, with support from the Israeli authorities.

Periodically throughout the year, Israeli military forces carried out air strikes on Gaza while Palestinian armed groups launched rocket attacks on Israel. Israel continued to fire live ammunition to enforce the land and sea “exclusion zones” inside Gaza's perimeter and territorial waters, killing at least six civilians and injuring others. Israeli leaders publicly advocated bombing Iranian nuclear sites.

One Israeli civilian was killed by militants from Egypt in June.

Freedom of movement – Gaza blockade and West Bank restrictions

The myriad restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the movement of Palestinians amounted to collective punishment of the population of Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of international law. Over 500 Israeli checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank, as well as the fence/wall, restricted Palestinians' movement, particularly in East Jerusalem, part of Hebron, the Jordan Valley and areas near settlements. Palestinians were required to obtain permits from the Israeli authorities while Israelis, including settlers, enjoyed free movement in these areas. There were continued reports of harassment and abuse of Palestinians at checkpoints by Israeli personnel. Movement restrictions also impeded Palestinians' access to medical care, water and farmland.