As Israel's military blockade of the Gaza Strip entered its sixth year, its impact on basic infrastructure, including water, sanitation and power supplies continued to be severe. Israel continued to severely limit exports from and imports to Gaza, stifling its economy and driving the perilous underground smuggling trade from Egypt, which continued to claim the lives of those using the tunnels. More people were able to travel through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt than during previous years, despite continuing restrictions, but permits for travel to the West Bank remained rare and difficult to obtain, even for patients requiring urgent medical treatment. In September, Israel's High Court of Justice affirmed this policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank, rejecting a petition by Gazan women seeking to study at West Bank universities.
Forced evictions and demolitions
In more than 60% of the West Bank, known as Area C, the Israeli army continued to control planning, zoning and security and regularly demolished Palestinian homes. Some 604 structures, a third of them homes, and including 36 water cisterns, were destroyed, resulting in the forced eviction of some 870 Palestinians from their homes and affecting at least 1600 others. Israeli settlers continued to attack Palestinian residents and their property with virtual impunity. Palestinian citizens of Israel, particularly those living in officially “unrecognized villages” in the Negev region, were regularly subjected to home demolitions by the Israel Land Administration (ILA) and municipal bodies.
- In the West Bank, the army demolished homes, water cisterns and animal pens repeatedly in Umm al-Kheir and other villages in the southern Hebron hills, while villages such as al-‘Aqaba, Khirbet Tana, Humsa and Hadidiya were threatened with complete demolition.
- The ILA demolished tents and other structures in al-‘Araqib, an “unrecognized” village in the Negev, 13 times during 2012, following dozens of previous demolitions since July 2010.
The authorities again failed to independently investigate killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza or to prosecute those responsible. Impunity continued for war crimes committed by Israeli forces during Operation “Cast Lead” in 2008-2009, and there were no indications that independent investigations would be conducted into violations committed during the November 2012 Gaza-Israel conflict. Police investigations into Israeli settler violence against Palestinians rarely led to prosecutions.
- In May, the military authorities closed their investigation into the killing of 21 members of the Samouni family, including young children, during Operation “Cast Lead”. The family was sheltering in a house into which Israeli soldiers had ordered them to move, when they were killed, apparently by shelling. The authorities ruled that the deaths did not result from negligence by Israeli troops.
- In August, a soldier who shot dead two Palestinian women holding a white flag during Operation “Cast Lead” received a 45-day prison sentence for “illegal use of a weapon” as the result of a plea bargain.
- On 28 August, a court in Haifa absolved the Israeli authorities of responsibility for the death of US activist Rachel Corrie, who was run over and killed in 2003 while protesting against home demolitions in Rafah, Gaza.
Operation “Pillar of Defense”
Israeli forces launched a major military operation on Gaza on 14 November, beginning with an airstrike that killed the leader of the military wing of Hamas.