Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Ministry of Justice’s Department for Investigations of Police Officers (DIPO) is responsible for investigating alleged unlawful actions involving police, while the Ministry of Justice’s State Attorney’s Office is responsible for investigating alleged unlawful actions involving the prosecution service. The Military Police Criminal Investigation Division is responsible for investigating alleged unlawful actions involving the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in conjunction with the Military Advocate General’s Corps.

According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, during the Israeli military campaign from May 10 to 21, Palestinian militants in Gaza launched 4,360 rockets and mortars at Israeli cities and towns targeting civilians. During the operation, 12 Israelis, two of them children, were killed by rocket fire, and one IDF soldier was killed by an antitank missile.

According to the government, 15 Israelis were killed in terror attacks during the year, including two soldiers; in addition, three foreign nationals (two Thai citizens and one Indian) were killed from mortar and rockets from Gaza. According to the Shin Bet, 195 Israelis were injured in attacks from Gaza, in the West Bank, and in Jerusalem. There was a total of 4,575 terror attacks, including rockets and mortars, of which 2,805 were registered in May, according to the Shin Bet.

In April the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Yesh Din released a report on the Military Advocate General’s Corps (MAG’s) Fact Finding Assessment (FFA) Mechanism that was implemented to investigate incidents, including injuries and fatalities, during the “March of Return” protests which started in March 2018 and continued through late 2019. Yesh Din found that of 231 incidents forwarded to the FFA, 59 percent, covering 140 fatalities, remained under FFA review. Most of these fatalities were still undergoing the FFA Mechanism’s “quick” assessment three years later, according to Yesh Din. The FFA examines the details of a case and provides all relevant information to the MAG, who determines whether a criminal investigation is warranted. Yesh Din stated it was skeptical of the Israeli military’s ability to conduct thorough and effective investigations of these incidents so long after they occurred.

A November 30 report by the B’Tselem information center for human rights concluded that the Israeli government had not seriously investigated killings of Palestinians or held IDF members accountable, despite announcing in 2018 that it would open investigations of its use of lethal force, in part to deflect international criticism and investigation at the International Criminal Court.

A study published by a group of academic researchers in September concluded citizens with mental disabilities were at greater risk of being subjected to violence when interacting with police. The study examined media publications in the years 2019-20 and found that four of the five cases that ended in civilian deaths due to a confrontation with police officers involved victims with mental disabilities. All four of these individuals belonged to a minority group.

On January 8, DIPO closed the case against the police officer who shot and killed Shirel Habura, a mentally ill man, in the central Israeli city of Rosh Ha’ayin in April 2020. Investigators found the officer had not committed a crime but had acted in self-defense because his life was in concrete danger when Habura attacked him with a knife.

On May 23, DIPO announced it was closing the criminal case against the police officer who on March 29, killed a mentally ill Haifa resident named Munir Anabtawi. DIPO determined that the officer acted in self-defense after finding himself in a life-threatening situation when the victim wielded a knife while chasing him.

On May 19, 17-year-old Muhammad Mahamid Kiwan died after police reportedly shot him on May 12 at the Mei Ami junction on Route 65. His family claimed police used unnecessary force in shooting Kiwan. Media outlets reported a police statement confirming two officers fired at a car that ran into them near the city of Umm al-Fahm on the day Kiwan was fatally wounded. Police did not clarify who fired the shots that killed Kiwan, or whether Kiwan was in the car that struck the police officers. DIPO concluded an investigation, and the case was pending a final ruling by authorities.

In June 2020, police in Jerusalem’s Old City fatally shot Iyad Halak, a Palestinian resident with autism, after he allegedly failed to follow police orders to stop. Police stated they believed Halak was carrying a “suspicious object.” On June 17, DIPO filed an indictment with the Jerusalem District Court against the border police officer who shot and killed Halak. DIPO charged him with reckless homicide, an offense punishable by up to 12 years’ imprisonment. According to media reports, the officer accused of shooting Halak was not charged with first-degree murder because the officer believed he was pursuing a terrorist, following an alert of a potential terrorist in the area.

In 2020 the NGOs the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) submitted a request to the Supreme Court demanding the reversal of a decision by the then state attorney to close the investigation into the 2017 police killing of Yaqoub Abu al-Qian in Umm al-Hiran and the criminal indictment of the officers responsible for the death of Abu al-Qian. On October 21, the court denied the petition stating that the then state attorney’s decision and the preliminary examination conducted by DIPO was sufficient to substantiate the decision not to press charges against the officers involved, and that it seemed unlikely that launching an investigation would lead to indictments.

In 2019 the Supreme Court granted a petition filed by the family of citizen Kheir al-Din Hamdan, ordering the attorney general and DIPO to indict police officer Yizhak Begin, who shot and killed Hamdan in 2014, after DIPO closed its investigation into the killing in 2015. On April 27, the Supreme Court president ordered an expanded panel of justices to review whether an indictment could be ordered against police officers who were questioned without a warning during the DIPO investigation. The review continued at year’s end.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

Israeli law does not include a specific prohibition on torture, although Israel signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1986 and signed it in 1991. Israeli domestic law prohibits the application of physical force, assault, or pressure by a public official. The state’s attorney has argued that Israeli law exempts from prosecution Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators who use what are termed “exceptional methods” in cases that are determined by the Ministry of Justice after the fact to have involved an imminent threat. The government determined in 2018 that the rules, procedures, and methods of interrogation were confidential for security reasons.

Authorities continued to state the ISA held detainees in isolation only in extreme cases and when there was no alternative, and that the ISA did not use isolation as a means of augmenting interrogation, forcing a confession, or punishment. An independent Office of the Inspector for Complaints against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice handled complaints of misconduct and abuse in interrogations. The decision to open an investigation against an ISA employee is at the discretion of the attorney general. In criminal cases investigated by police involving crimes with a maximum imprisonment for conviction of 10 years or more, regulations require recording the interrogations; however, an extended temporary law exempts the ISA from the audio and video recording requirement for interrogations of suspects related to “security offenses.” In nonsecurity-related cases, ISA interrogation rooms are equipped with closed-circuit cameras, and only supervisors appointed by the Ministry of Justice have access to real-time audiovisual feeds. Supervisors are required to report to the comptroller any irregularities they observe during interrogations. The NGO Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) criticized this mechanism as insufficient to prevent and identify abuses, arguing that the absence of a recording of an interrogation impedes later accountability and judicial review.

According to PCATI, the government acknowledged that it used “exceptional measures” during interrogation in some cases, that if confirmed might constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but the Ministry of Justice refused to provide information regarding the number of such “necessity” interrogations or which “exceptional measures” were used. According to PCATI, these matters included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, incommunicado detention, sexual harassment, threats of rape and physical harm, painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms, religion-based humiliation, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and threats against families of detainees.

PCATI also argued that torture is not enumerated as a specific offense under the criminal code, despite the government’s commitments to the relevant UN treaty bodies that it would introduce such a law criminalizing torture. PCATI reported a continuous upward trend in the number of cases of ISA using “special means,” with 60 cases of alleged physical torture during interrogations, based on data compiled by PCATI through interviews and examination of Palestinians incarcerated or formerly held in detention for suspected security offenses, some of which were filed during the year and some in previous years. PCATI stated the government’s system for investigating allegations of mistreatment of detainees showed persistent and systemic shortcomings. According to PCATI, the average time it takes authorities to address complaints increased from 44 months in 2020 to 56 months during the year. The Ministry of Justice stated that its internal reviews led to the opening of two investigations since 2018. PCATI claimed that more than 1,300 complaints of ISA torture were submitted to the Ministry of Justice since 2001 but resulted in only one criminal investigation and no indictments.

On January 24, the attorney general announced “no sufficient evidence was found to justify an indictment” of security officials in the case of Samer al-Arbid, a Palestinian suspect in the 2019 killing of Rina Shnerb near the settlement of Dolev in the West Bank. PCATI alleged the ISA used “exceptional measures” in interrogating al-Arbid, who was admitted to a hospital unconscious and with serious injuries following an interrogation.

The government stated that requests from prisoners for independent medical examination at the prisoner’s expense are reviewed by an Israel Prison Service (IPS) medical team. According to PCATI and Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), IPS medics and doctors ignored bruises and injuries resulting from violent arrests and interrogations. In its 2016 review of the country’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture, the UN Committee against Torture recommended (among 50 other recommendations) that the government provide for independent medical examinations for all detainees.

On June 12, Haaretz released footage taken from Ketziot prison in 2019 showing IPS officers gathering approximately 55 Palestinian prisoners in restraints, throwing them to the floor, beating them with batons, and kicking them while they were bent over with their hands cuffed. According to a report documenting the incident, the prisoners were ordered not to move or speak for hours. The IPS responded that prisoners at Ketziot prison were planning a terror attack and that a prisoner had tried to kill two prison officers and was subsequently indicted for attempted murder.

On April 7, the State Attorney’s Office decided to close the investigation into the alleged severe sexual assault by the Shin Bet and IDF of a young Palestinian woman in 2015 for lack of evidence. The victim alleged officers carried out a nonconsensual and intrusive vaginal and anal search. According to an April 22 Haaretz report, all individuals involved in the incident were promoted except for the female soldier who carried out the search (along with a female military doctor). PCATI claimed the search was carried out in violation of the Criminal Procedure Law, which regulates the exceptional circumstances in which an invasive search may be conducted. The law requires the consent of the suspect, a court order, and an appropriate place to conduct the search. According to PCATI, because the suspect objected to the search, the incident constituted a serious sexual assault. PCATI called on authorities to reconsider the decision not to prosecute the officials involved and urged their immediate dismissal from public service.

On June 7, the Adalah (“Justice” in Arabic) human rights and legal center filed a complaint with the attorney general and DIPO demanding a criminal investigation against Nazareth police station officers for allegedly attacking and beating detainees including minors, bystanders, and lawyers in the city’s police station. Adalah asserted that the testimonies from detainees, attorneys, and paramedics revealed systemic police brutality and physical, verbal, and psychological abuse of Arab/Palestinian citizens of Israel. These testimonies indicated what Adalah described as a “torture room” inside the Nazareth police station after police officers led detainees to a room forcing them to sit on the floor handcuffed, to lower their heads towards the floor, and began to beat them.

In 2020 a district court convicted Amiram Ben Uliel on three murder charges, two attempted murder charges, arson, and conspiracy to commit a crime motivated by racism, for his role in an arson attack in Duma in 2015 that killed a Palestinian couple and their infant. On September 14, the court sentenced Ben Uliel to three life sentences plus 20 years and ordered him to pay a monetary fine. Ben Uliel appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court, which was pending at year’s end.

Israeli civil law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements, although NGOs identified cases where the requirements were not followed, and Israeli authorities also did not always apply the same laws to all residents of Jerusalem, regardless of their Israeli citizenship status.

NGOs and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem alleged that Israeli security forces disproportionally devoted enforcement actions to Palestinian neighborhoods, particularly Issawiya and Sheikh Jarrah, with higher numbers of temporary checkpoints and raids than in West Jerusalem. For example, on August 10, the IDF detained Sheikh Jarrah resident and activist Murad Ateah and subsequently extended his detention multiple times without charge before charging him with organizing activities that disturbed the peace in the neighborhood. His first hearing was scheduled for September 30 and his detention was subsequently extended 12 times to January 12, 2022.

Israeli press also reported on “serious violent behavior” by Israeli police towards Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Among complaints reportedly filed with the Police Internal Investigations Department, the report quoted a 16-year-old boy’s allegations that he was stripped and beaten in a public washroom; alleged that a 60-year-old Palestinian woman was handcuffed and dragged across the floor; cited a female journalist’s complaint she was subjected to sexist comments during an interrogation; reported that a youth was attacked in Jerusalem’s city center; and stated that another child was dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, falsely identified as someone else, and his family members were beaten. Jerusalem police force described the report as “distorted and one-sided” but did not dispute any of the details reported. Palestinians also criticized police for devoting fewer resources per capita to regular crime and community policing in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. According to NGOs, police did not maintain a permanent presence in areas of Jerusalem outside the barrier, dividing the majority of the West Bank from Israel and some communities in Jerusalem, and only entered to conduct raids. Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza detained on security grounds fell under military jurisdiction, even if detained inside Israel (see West Bank and Gaza section).

The government may detain without trial and for an indefinite period irregular migrants who were “implicated in criminal proceedings.” According to the NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM), this policy enabled indefinite detention either without a trial or following the completion of time served.

During the 11-day Israeli military operation against terrorist organizations in Gaza and contemporaneous civil unrest within Israel from May 6 to 21, civil rights groups claimed police blocked main highways and limited the movement of Bedouin residents following demonstrations in Rahat, Laqiya, and Shaqib al-Salam.

On May 24, police launched an operation deploying thousands of police and border police forces to arrest suspected rioters, criminals, and others instigating unrest in several predominantly mixed Jewish-Arab cities, as defined by the government, in Israel during the month of May. According to police, the goal of the operation was to prosecute those involved in the unrest by filing charges of possession and trade in weapons, arson, property offenses, membership in crime organizations, and economic offenses. In addition, police stated the operation would restore deterrence, increase governance, and maintain the personal security of Israeli citizens. The High Follow-up Committee (HFUC), an organization of Arab/Palestinian citizen leaders, asserted the goal of the operation was to intimidate Arab/Palestinian citizens of Israel. The HFUC cautioned that the operation could rekindle strife within Israel’s mixed communities after a relative calm following the mutual cessation of hostilities following the May escalation in violence.

On June 3, police announced the end of the operation after it had resulted in 2,142 arrests and 184 indictments against 285 defendants. According to police, 322 officers were injured during the operation. Haaretz reported that Arab/Palestinian citizens of Israel constituted 91 percent of the arrests for suspicion of involvement in riots across the country from the day before commencement of the country’s May military campaign until June 3.

On May 11, Arab/Palestinian Israeli citizen students from Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva organized a protest government practices in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem and violence against Arab/Palestinian citizens. Shortly before the protest concluded, far-right counterdemonstrators confronted the Arab/Palestinian Israeli citizen students, leading police to intervene and arrest several of the students. Police did not arrest counterdemonstrators, according to media reports and civil rights groups. After the demonstration concluded, a special police unit joined by the university’s security forces reportedly violently attacked and arrested eight additional Arab/Palestinian citizen students near the dormitories, five of whom were later released and three of whom were charged with assaulting police officers, disruption, and causing disorder and violence.

On February 22, the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF) and the NGO Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) reported that police arbitrarily arrested 15 Arab Bedouin citizens who were protesting government efforts to plough approximately 690 acres of land in the villages of al-Garrah, al-Ruays, and Sawah, which resulted in accidental damage to a pipe that provided clean drinking water for residents. The HRDF and NCF alleged police conduct was “unacceptable.”

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected those prohibitions for Israeli citizens.

The 2003 Law of Citizenship and Entry, which was renewed annually until July because the Knesset did not extend it, prohibited Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Lebanese, including those who are Palestinian spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status unless the Ministry of the Interior made a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds. The government extended the law annually due to government reports that Palestinian family reunification allowed entry to a disproportionate number of persons who were later involved in acts of terrorism. HaMoked asserted that statistics from government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests contradicted the terrorism allegations and that the denial of residency to Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza for the purposes of family reunification led to cases of family separation. In 2020 the Population and Immigration Authority received 1,354 family unification requests. As of year’s end, the Population and Immigration Authority had received 1,680 family unification requests.

HaMoked reported that, of the more than 2,000 requests filed in the previous two years, most were for West Bank Palestinians married to Israelis or East Jerusalemites. On September 14, HaMoked, ACRI, and PHRI filed a petition demanding the Ministry of Interior respect the law and process the requests. On October 6, the head of the Population and Immigration Authority, Tomer Moskowitz, stated that the Ministry of Interior was continuing to implement the prior law as if it had not expired. The government’s response on November 11 supported Shaked’s continued handling of Palestinians’ requests in accordance with the now-expired regulations, claiming that Shaked could continue to implement “interim procedures and regulations” until an amendment was passed. On November 15, the court rejected the request for an injunction by the petitioners prohibiting the handling of requests based on the expired law. As a result, on November 17, the petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court. The petitions were pending at the year’s end. Israeli authorities confirmed at the end of the year that in accordance with the government’s decision from 2008 regarding the extension of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), the minister of the interior was instructed not to approve any requests for family reunification received from Gaza. This decision was made due to Israeli security authorities’ assessment of the security threats emanating from Gaza which put the security of Israel and its citizens at risk, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.

According to press reports, as of 2020 there were approximately 13,000 Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza living in Israel, including Jerusalem, on temporary stay permits because of the Citizenship and Entry law, with no legal provision that they would be able to continue living with their families. There were also cases of Palestinian spouses living in East Jerusalem without legal status. Authorities did not permit Palestinians who were abroad during the 1967 war or whose residency permits the government subsequently withdrew to reside permanently in Jerusalem. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called on the government to repeal the law and resume processing family unification applications. The law allows for the entry of spouses of Israelis on a “staying permit” if the male spouse is age 35 or older and the female spouse is age 25 or older, for children up to age 14, and for a special permit for children ages 14-18, but they may not receive residency and have no path to citizenship. According to the government, as of July the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) had received 774 family unification requests for the calendar year, compared with 1,354 requests received in 2020.

The government continued to renew an emergency regulation allowing Shin Bet to track mobile phones to identify individuals in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients for quarantining purposes. Beginning on March 14, following a Supreme Court ruling, Shin Bet tracking was limited only to cases where a patient did not cooperate with an epidemiological investigation. On March 30, a Knesset Committee did not vote to approve the extension of the emergency regulations. In July the law allowing Shin Bet’s tracking expired. On November 28, the government approved by emergency regulation the use of Shin Bet tracking for those carrying the Omicron variant. Despite the Supreme Court’s rejection of a petition against the tracking on December 2, the government did not renew the regulation after its expiration on December 2.

On June 7, ACRI sent a letter to the attorney general arguing there are constitutional defects in Shin Bet’s compilation of data from all mobile phone users in Israel, which was exposed in 2020. According to ACRI, the database and its use violated the right to privacy, minimized individual freedoms, including freedom of expression, by creating a chilling effect, and the database risked being abused by Shin Bet, the prime minister, or by other forces in case of leaks. ACRI demanded the creation of legal protections to provide for external supervision to balance the country’s security needs and individual rights.

On July 20, ACRI submitted a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the cancelation of government resolutions which allowed the government to expand the Shin Bet’s role without amending the Shin Bet law. The petition stated that since 2004, the government added four roles to Shin Bet’s functions and authorities, the last of which was the tracking of mobile phones in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition was pending at the year’s end. On March 4, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a freedom of information petition with the Jerusalem District Court for information regarding the police request to internet providers to provide data on police suspects and individuals visiting specific websites or internet protocol addresses to a police-controlled system. The petition was pending at the year’s end.

The law allows police access to telecommunications data, including incoming calls, location data, and online activity, when investigating crimes, based on a court order or without one in urgent cases. According to police information obtained by Privacy Israel through a freedom of information request, police filed 40,677 requests for access to such data, 16,644 of the requests were without a court order. The courts granted police access in 40,502 cases. The number of requests has risen steadily in previous years, increasing 64 percent since 2016. Approximately 20 percent of the offenses investigated were minor offenses, such as bicycle theft or traffic offenses.

Killings: During the 11-day conflict from May 10 to 21, Palestinian militants in Gaza launched 4,400 rockets and mortar shells toward Israel. According to the IDF, 680 of these rockets misfired and landed in Gaza, causing Palestinian casualties. The IDF launched 1,500 airstrikes against targets in Gaza during the conflict. According to the Israeli government, NGOs, and media outlets, Gaza-based militants fired rockets from civilian locations toward civilian targets in Israel, including large salvos towards dense population centers. Israeli airstrikes destroyed 1,800 homes, including five residential towers. According to UNOCHA, during the May escalation, 261 Palestinians were killed, including 67 children. At least 241 of the fatalities were by Israeli forces, and the rest due to rockets falling short of their intended targets and other circumstances. An estimated 130 Palestinian fatalities were civilians and 77 were members of armed groups, while the status of the remaining 54 has not been determined. More than 2,200 Palestinians were injured, including 685 children and 480 women, some of whom may suffer a long-term disability requiring rehabilitation. In Israel, 13 individuals, including two children, were killed, and 710 others were injured. Palestinian rocket fire killed 20 Palestinians, including seven minors. A member of the Israeli security forces was killed by an antitank missile fired by a Palestinian organization. At the height of the fighting, 113,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) sought shelter and protection at UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools or with hosting families. According to the UN’s Shelter Cluster, which is responsible for tracking and assisting with provision of housing and shelter, there remain approximately 8,250 IDPs, primarily those whose houses were destroyed or severely damaged.

Human rights groups condemned Hamas’s and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s targeting of civilians as well as Israel’s targeting of civilian infrastructure. The Israeli government stated that Hamas and others were using this civilian infrastructure for cover, including offices within the buildings and tunnel infrastructure beneath them. A Hamas tunnel was found, for example, under an UNRWA school in Gaza, and Hamas temporarily turned away bomb disposal experts brought in by the UN Mine Action Service and UNRWA to ensure the school was safe to open, delaying the work being undertaken to remove two deeply buried bombs that had struck the school during the airstrikes. The IDF also destroyed a building that contained the headquarters for several international media organizations, such as the Associated Press (AP) and al-Jazeera. The IDF stated that its intelligence showed that Hamas used the building for its operations. AP and others including journalists and civil society organizations, continued to call for an investigation, and the government has not made public the intelligence that led to the strike. Prior to and following the May conflict, Gaza-based militants routinely launched rockets, released incendiary balloons, and organized protests at the Gaza fence, drawing airstrikes from the IDF. These exchanges resulted in the deaths of three Palestinians and one Israeli border police officer since the end of the May conflict.

West Bank and Gaza

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were reports that Israeli and Palestinian governmental forces or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Palestinian security forces were accused of using excessive force against the Palestinian Authority’s (PA’s) political opponents. On June 24, Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) entered the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron, raided the house where Palestinian dissident Nizar Banat was hiding, and severely beat him. According to video and eyewitness testimony, Banat was still alive when PASF carried him out of the house but was declared dead shortly thereafter upon his arrival at the Hebron public hospital. An autopsy found he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs, and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death. The PA detained 14 PASF officers belonging to the Preventive Security Organization (PSO) that they claim carried out the botched arrest, and an internal PA investigation continued at year’s end. On August 28, Banat’s family requested a foreign government to open an investigation under the principle of universal jurisdiction, claiming they had no confidence in the PA’s capacity to deliver justice.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, 39 terror attacks or terror attack attempts were carried out during the year in the West Bank and 15 in Jerusalem; two persons were killed in these attacks. The PA continued to make payments to persons convicted of terrorism in Israeli courts serving prison sentences, former prisoners, and the families of those who died committing terrorist attacks. Israel considered these payments to incentivize, encourage, and reward terrorism, with higher monthly payments for lengthier prison sentences tied to more severe crimes. The PA considered these payments provided economic support to families who had lost their primary breadwinner.

Israeli security forces killed 73 Palestinians in the West Bank as of December 13, including 11 on May 14, the highest number of Palestinian fatalities recorded in a single day in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (UNOCHA) began recording fatalities in 2005. With respect to Palestinian civilians threatening Israeli citizens, there were four credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings and 150 credible reports of injuries to Israeli citizens as of December 20. With respect to Israeli civilians threatening Palestinian citizens, there were four credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings and 174 credible reports of injuries to Palestinians as of December 20.

An outbreak of violence in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict began on May 10, although disturbances took place earlier, and continued until a ceasefire came into effect on May 21. During the May escalation, 261 Palestinians were killed, including 67 children. Israeli strikes killed at least 241 persons and the rest were due to rockets falling short and other circumstances. An estimated 130 of the fatalities were civilians and 77 were members of armed groups, while the status of the remaining 54 had not been determined, according to UNOCHA. According to the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) B’Tselem, 20 Palestinians in Gaza, including seven minors, were killed by Palestinian rocket fire during the May conflict. B’Tselem was unable to ascertain who killed eight other Palestinians, six of them minors. According to UNOCHA, in Israel, 13 persons, including two children, were killed, and 710 others were injured. A member of the Israeli security forces was killed by an antitank missile fired by a Gaza-based Palestinian organization during the May conflict.

Throughout the year, Israeli security forces killed Palestinian protesters who B’Tselem and other rights groups asserted did not pose a mortal threat to ISF personnel. For example on May 14, approximately 200 residents of Ya’bad and the surrounding area participated in demonstrations, with some waving Palestinian flags while others burned tires and used boulders to block the road leading to the settlement of Mevo Dotan. Some of them also threw stones at several dozen Israeli soldiers who were standing on the road and in nearby olive groves. The Israeli soldiers used stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets in response. The soldiers also fired two live rounds at the protesters. One protester was injured in the leg and another, Yusef a-Nawasrah from the village of Fahmah, was hit in the waist and died soon afterwards, according to B’Tselem.

Also on May 14, several dozen young men from the area of Tulkarem came to an agricultural gate in the separation barrier, north of the village of Shuweika. Some of them waved Palestinian flags and threw stones at Israeli soldiers standing on the other side of the nearby barrier. The Israeli soldiers used stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets in response. One of the soldiers fired a live round, hitting Nizar Abu Zeinah, a resident of Tulkarem Refugee Camp, in the chest. Abu Zeinah was pronounced dead a short while later at a Tulkarem hospital, according to B’Tselem.

On May 15, near al-Birah in the West Bank, Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers fired tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and live rounds at protesters from 70 to 100 yards away, severely injuring Fadi Washahah. He died two weeks later of brain injuries, according to B’Tselem.

On May 18 in the village of Tura al-Gharbiyah, soldiers on the roof of Samer Kabaha’s house threw stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at dozens of men who had spread out around the house and in nearby alleys and were throwing stones at the soldiers. After participating, Muntasser Zidan was walking towards a grocery store with a friend away from the area of the clashes when a soldier opened fire with live rounds from the rooftop of the house and hit Zidan in the head. Zidan died of his wounds two days later, according to B’Tselem.

On July 21, Israeli police detained Abdo Yusuf al-Khatib al-Tamimi for a traffic violation. Police took him to the Moskabiya Detention Center in Jerusalem where he died on July 23. According to press reports, his family, and human rights groups, he was beaten and tortured in custody before he died. Photos published by Palestinian and international press after his death show a stitched gash on his forehead, a wound on his knee, and extensive bruising on other parts of his body. The Israeli Prison Services (IPS) announced that he had been “found dead” in his cell three days after his arrest. Al-Tamimi’s body reportedly was taken to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in East Jerusalem for an autopsy performed by Israeli authorities in the presence of a Palestinian doctor. Authorities have not yet made the autopsy results public.

Palestinians in Gaza protested multiple times at the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel in August to make political and humanitarian demands, including reconstruction and reopening of border crossings. Hundreds participated in protests on August 21 and August 25, including armed militants and unarmed protesters. The Israeli military killed three persons during the protests, according to media reports: one al-Quds Brigade (AQB) militant, a 12-year-old boy, and another man. An Israeli border police officer also was killed.

In April the NGO Yesh Din released a report on the Military Advocate General’s (MAG’s) Fact Finding Assessment (FFA) Mechanism that was implemented to investigate incidents, including injuries and fatalities, during the “March of Return” protests that started in 2018 and continued through late 2019. Yesh Din found that of 231 incidents forwarded to the FFA, 59 percent, covering 140 fatalities, remained under FFA review. The FFA examines the details of a case and provides all relevant information to the MAG, who determines whether a criminal investigation is warranted. Yesh Din stated it was skeptical of the Israeli military’s ability to conduct thorough and effective investigations of the incidents so long after they occurred. Most of these fatalities were still undergoing the FFA Mechanism’s “quick” assessment three years later, according to Yesh Din.

A November 30 B’Tselem report entitled, Unwilling and Unable: Israels Whitewashed Investigations of the Great March of Return Protests concluded that the Israeli government had not seriously investigated killings of Palestinians or held IDF members accountable, despite announcing in 2018 that it would open investigations of its use of lethal force, which B’Tselem in part attributed to a desire to deflect international criticism and investigation at the International Criminal Court.

Some human rights groups alleged the ISF used excessive force while detaining and arresting some Palestinians accused of committing crimes. On December 4, Israeli border police shot and killed Muhammad Salima, a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Salfit, as he lay on the ground outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Salima had stabbed and injured an ultra-Orthodox Israeli man before running toward the officers, who shot him. Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office briefly opened and then closed an investigation into the officers’ conduct, finding they had done nothing wrong. On May 25, in Um a-Sharayet in the West Bank, an Israeli Special Police Unit vehicle blocked Ahmad Abdu’s car after he got into it. According to video footage published by B’Tselem, officers were seen getting out of the vehicle and immediately firing several shots at the car at the apparently injured Abdu as he opened the righthand door, at which point the officers surrounded the car and dragged Abdu out, then left the scene without providing him first aid. An Israeli Border Police statement stated Abdu had been killed as part of an “arrest operation” but offered no explanation for the lethal shooting. B’Tselem stated that opening live fire at a person sitting in his car, without first trying to arrest him, is not an “attempted arrest” but rather is a targeted killing.

In Gaza, Hamas sentenced 21 individuals to death during the year, although it did not carry out any executions, according to the Democracy and Media Center (SHAMS). Among those sentenced to death, eight allegedly collaborated with Israel and one was sentenced for drug offenses. According to SHAMS, there is no law, decree, or legislation in the West Bank or Gaza Strip that punishes drug offenses with a death sentence. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) previously noted a significant increase in the death penalty in Gaza since 2007, with Hamas sentencing 130 persons to death and executing 25 during that period, despite significant concerns that Hamas courts did not meet minimum fair trial standards. By law the PA president must ratify each death penalty sentence. Hamas in previous years proceeded with executions without the PA president’s approval.

In the West Bank, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities during the year. There was no new information on the disappearances in 2014 and 2015 of two Israeli citizens, Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza and whom Hamas reportedly apprehended and held incommunicado. Additionally, there was no new information on the status of two IDF soldiers that Hamas captured during the 2014 war, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

The PA basic law prohibits torture or use of force against detainees; however, international and local human rights groups reported that torture and abuse remained a problem. The PA has yet to establish a protocol for preventing torture. The quasi-governmental Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) reported receiving 176 complaints of torture or mistreatment against the PA and 115 complaints against Hamas during the year. Some human rights groups reported that during the year Palestinian police took a more direct role in the mistreatment of Palestinian protesters than in previous years.

Between January and September 2020, 40 West Bank Palestinians and 50 Gaza Palestinians complained of torture and mistreatment by Palestinian security forces, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). According to a 2019 update to a 2018 HRW report, torture regularly occurred in detention centers in both Gaza and the West Bank by Hamas and PA security services, respectively. HRW reported systematic and routine abuse in PA prisons, particularly in the PA’s Intelligence, Preventive Security, and Joint Security Committee detention facilities in Jericho. HRW reported practices that included forcing detainees to hold painful stress positions for long periods, beating, punching, and flogging. Victims also reported being cut, forced to stand on broken glass, and being sexually assaulted while in custody. A Palestinian accused of collaborating with Israel due to his political beliefs alleged to foreign diplomatic officials that he was tortured in a prison in Jericho.

Palestinian detainees held by the PASF registered complaints of abuse and torture with the ICHR. The PA Corrections and Rehabilitation Centers Department, under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, continued to maintain a mechanism for reviewing complaints of prisoner abuse in civil prisons. There was a box in the common area of the prison where prisoners could submit complaints, which a warden then reviewed. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime provided support to this system, including ensuring there were posters in every prison with the prisoners’ rights explained in English and Arabic.

In 2019 HRW stated, “there have been no serious efforts to hold wrongdoers to account or any apparent change in policy or practice” by the PA or Hamas. During the year courts in Gaza had not convicted any prison employees for mistreatment of prisoners, and courts in the West Bank had convicted only one employee of mistreatment of prisoners and sentenced him to 10 days in prison, according to HRW. On July 3, the PA arrested 14 Palestinian low-level security personnel in connection with the June 24 killing of dissident Nizar Banat (see section 1.a.). On September 5, the PA’s Security Forces Justice Commission completed its investigation into Banat’s killing and announced it would indict 14 PASF officers of beating Banat to death under the penal martial code of 1979. The first hearing took place on September 27, and weekly hearings continued. The Banat family’s lawyer walked out of a November 2 hearing in protest of verbal attacks against the family and himself by the defense counsel but resumed attending hearings in early December. Since Banat’s death, Preventative Security Organization (PSO) officers raided Banat family homes on multiple occasions and detained family members – including key witnesses present at the time of Banat’s death – purportedly as part of investigating retribution incidents related to the killing. Local security chiefs said this was necessary to prevent a spiraling cycle of violence, but Banat family members and activists alleged the PSO actions constituted witness intimidation and harassment. The trial continued at the end of the year, and the 14 defendants remained detained.

An Israeli news article reported on “serious violent behavior” by Israeli police towards Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem on December 27. Among complaints reportedly filed with the Police Internal Investigations Department, the article quoted a 16-year-old boy’s allegations that Israeli police stripped and beat him in a public bathroom; stated that Israeli police handcuffed and dragged a Palestinian woman across the floor; cited a female journalist’s complaint of sexist comments during an interrogation; and reported another child was dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, falsely identified as someone else, and his family members beaten. Jerusalem police described the report as “distorted and one-sided” but did not specifically dispute any of the details reported. Palestinians criticized Israeli police for devoting fewer resources on a per capita basis to regular crime and community policing in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Israeli police did not maintain a permanent presence in areas of Jerusalem outside the barrier and only entered to conduct raids, according to NGOs.

The attorney general announced January 24 that “no sufficient evidence was found to justify an indictment” of security officials in the case of Samer al-Arbid, a Palestinian suspect in the 2019 killing of Rina Shnerb near the settlement of Dolev in the West Bank. The NGO Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) alleged the ISA used “exceptional measures” in interrogating al-Arbid, who was admitted to a hospital unconscious and with serious injuries following an interrogation.

PCATI reported that “exceptional measures” used by Israeli security personnel against Palestinian security detainees in the West Bank included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, threats of rape and physical harm, painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms, sleep deprivation, and threats against families of detainees. Female prisoners and detainees reported harassment and abuse in detention by the ISF. According to PCATI, there were only two investigations into 1,300 complaints made since 2001; both cases were closed with no indictment. The average time it took the Inspector of Interrogee Complaints (IIC) to conclude the preliminary examination of a complaint filed by PCATI increased from 44 months in 2020 to 56 months during the year.

The NGO HaMoked alleged that Israeli detention practices in the West Bank included prolonged solitary confinement, lack of food, exposure to the elements, and threats to demolish family homes. Military Court Watch (MCW) and HaMoked claimed Israeli security services used these techniques to coerce confessions from minors arrested on suspicion of stone throwing or other acts of violence. According to the government of Israel, detainees receive the rights to which they are entitled in accordance with Israeli law and international treaties to which Israel is a party, and all allegations of abuse and mistreatment are taken seriously and investigated.

The MCW stated that more than 73 percent of Palestinian minors detained in the West Bank reported being subjected to various forms of physical abuse during arrest, transfer, or interrogation by Israeli authorities. The MCW reported that most minors were arrested in night raids and reported ISF used physical abuse, strip searches, threats of violence, hand ties, and blindfolds. In 2019, in response to a petition to the Supreme Court regarding the blindfolding of detainees, the state prosecution clarified that “military orders and regulations forbid the blindfolding of detainees, and action to clarify the rules to the troops acting in the region has been taken and will continue to be taken on a continuous basis.” The government of Israel stated this policy applies to all detainees and blindfolds are only to be used as a rare exception. As of October the MCW reported that more than 94 percent of minors arrested during the year reported being blindfolded or hooded upon arrest. Israeli military prosecutors most commonly charged Palestinian minors with stone throwing, according to the MCW.

The Palestinian Basic Law, operable in the West Bank and Gaza, prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. There were reports the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza did not observe these requirements and instead applied Jordanian law or used tribal courts, which do not provide the same protections.

Israel prosecutes Palestinian residents of the West Bank under military law and Israeli settlers in the West Bank under criminal and civil law. Israeli military law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in military court, with broad exceptions for security-related offenses. There were reports the IDF did not observe these requirements and employed administrative detention excessively. Israeli authorities also did not always apply the same laws to all residents of Jerusalem, regardless of their Israeli citizenship status. NGOs and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem alleged Israeli security forces disproportionally devoted enforcement actions to Palestinian neighborhoods, particularly Issawiya and Sheikh Jarrah, with higher numbers of temporary checkpoints and raids than in West Jerusalem. For example, the IDF detained Sheikh Jarrah resident and activist Murad Ateah on August 10 and subsequently extended his detention multiple times before charging him with organizing activities that disturbed the peace in the neighborhood. His first hearing was scheduled for September 30, and his detention was subsequently extended 12 times.

Israel prosecuted Palestinian residents of the West Bank under military law and Israeli settlers in the West Bank under Israeli criminal and civil law. Israeli military law has broad exceptions for security-related offenses that limit the ability of any person to challenge the lawfulness of their arbitrary arrest and detention in military court.

In the West Bank, Israeli security forces routinely detained Palestinians for several hours and subjected them to interrogations, according to human rights groups.

The PA basic law provides for an independent judiciary. According to the ICHR, the PA judicial system was subject to pressure from the security agencies and the executive, undermining judicial performance and independence. PA authorities did not always execute court orders.

In 2019 President Abbas issued a decree dissolving the existing High Judicial Council (HJC). In January President Abbas appointed Issa Abu Sharar as chief justice of the newly reconstituted HJC. According to the new judicial law, the president has the power to appoint the chief justice from a list of names submitted by the HJC and the president can dismiss judges during a three-year probationary period. The council consisted of seven members, with the president appointing the chief justice and the deputy. The Palestinian Bar Association critiqued this arrangement as undue executive influence over the judiciary. The transitional council also included the attorney general and the undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice. The council oversaw the judicial system and nominated judges for positions throughout the PA judiciary for approval by the president. In December 2020 Abbas removed the Supreme Court’s power to carry out judicial review over the executive branch by entrusting this mission to a separate system of Administrative Courts, which had not been formed by the end of the year.

Palestinians have the right to file suits against the PA but rarely did so. Seldom-used administrative remedies are available in addition to judicial remedies.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas did not respect fair trial provisions or provide access to family and legal counsel to many detainees. Prosecutors and judges appointed by Hamas operated de facto courts, which the PA considered illegal.

The Israeli government tried Palestinian residents of the West Bank accused of security offenses in Israeli military courts, which had dramatically higher conviction rates and imposed far longer sentences than civilian courts in Israel. Amnesty International asserted that at least some Israeli military courts did not meet international fair trial standards. The MCW stated 95 percent of cases tried in military courts ended in conviction.

The PA law generally requires the PA attorney general to issue warrants for entry into and searches of private property; however, PA judicial officers may enter Palestinian houses without a warrant in case of emergency. NGOs reported it was common for the PA to harass family members for alleged offenses committed by an individual. Although the Oslo Accords restrict the PASF to operations only in Area A of the West Bank, at times they operated in Areas B, C, and H2 without official Israeli permission, including to harass individuals sought for political activity or search their homes.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas frequently interfered arbitrarily with personal privacy, family, and home, according to reporting from local media and NGO sources. There were reports Hamas searched homes and seized property without warrants and took control of hotels to use as quarantine facilities unlawfully and without compensation to the owners. They targeted critics of their policies, journalists, Fatah loyalists, civil society members, youth activists, and those whom Hamas’ security forces accused of criminal activity. Hamas forces monitored private communications systems, including telephones, email, and social media sites. They demanded passwords and access to personal information and seized personal electronic equipment of detainees. While Hamas membership was not a prerequisite for obtaining housing, education, or Hamas-provided services in Gaza, authorities commonly reserved employment in some government positions, such as those in the security services, for Hamas members. In several instances, Hamas detained individuals for interrogation and harassment, particularly prodemocracy youth activists, based on the purported actions of their family members.

In response to reported security threats, the ISF frequently raided Palestinian homes, including in areas designated as under PA security control by Oslo Accords-era agreements, according to media and PA officials. These raids often took place at night, which the ISF stated was due to operational necessity. ISF officers of lieutenant colonel rank and above may authorize entry into Palestinian private homes and institutions in the West Bank even without a warrant, based upon military necessity.

Israel’s Settlement Affairs Ministry published criteria in December 2020 for regional councils of Israeli settlers in the West Bank to apply for Israeli government funding for private drones and patrol units to monitor Palestinian building efforts, according to media reports. It was unclear, however, if any settlers received state funding for this purpose during the year. In 2020 Palestinians reported the use of drones by Israeli settlers to observe residents in neighboring villages for security purposes, including to identify the source of noise complaints. NGOs also noted incidents of settlers at agricultural outposts using drones to monitor grazing areas used by Palestinian farmers and shepherds in order to report them to Israeli security forces and further deny them access to pastoral lands.

According to B’Tselem and the United Nations, the Israeli military compelled various communities throughout the Jordan Valley to vacate their homes in areas Israel had declared firing zones during times when the IDF was conducting military exercises.

A 2003 Israeli law that was renewed annually until July when the Knesset did not extend it, prohibited Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Lebanese, including those who are Palestinian spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status unless the Ministry of the Interior made a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds. The government had extended the law annually due to government reports that Palestinian family reunification allowed entry to a disproportionate number of persons who were later involved in acts of terrorism. Following the Knesset’s decision in July not to extend the law, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials stated that the Ministry of Interior instructed the Population and Immigration Authority to continue to examine cases that were not covered by the limiting circumstances under the expired temporary order, such as humanitarian reasons. Applications that were covered by the expired order could be resubmitted for review, but they will not be adjudicated until a new implementing policy is in place, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The NGO HaMoked asserted that statistics from government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests contradicted allegations of terrorism, and that the denial of residency to Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza for the purposes of family reunification led to cases of family separation. As of July the Population and Immigration Authority had received 774 family unification requests. By year’s end, no request was acted on.

HaMoked reported that, of the more than 2,000 requests filed in the previous two years, most were for West Bank Palestinians married to Israelis or East Jerusalemites. On September 14, HaMoked, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and Physicians for Human Rights filed a petition demanding the Ministry of Interior respect the law and process the requests. On October 6, the head of the Population and Immigration Authority, Tomer Moskowitz, stated that the Ministry of Interior was continuing to implement the prior law as if it had not expired. Israeli authorities confirmed at the end of the year that in accordance with the Israeli government’s decision from 2008 regarding the extension of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), the minister of the interior was instructed not to approve any requests for family reunification received from Gaza. This decision was made due to Israeli security authorities’ assessment that Gaza was an area where activities were carried out that may threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, according to Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.

According to press reports, as of 2020 there were approximately 13,000 Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza living in Israel, including Jerusalem, on temporary stay permits because of the Citizenship and Entry Law, with no legal provision that they would be able to continue living with their families. There were also cases of Palestinian spouses living in East Jerusalem without legal status. Authorities did not permit Palestinians who were abroad during the 1967 war or whose residency permits the government subsequently withdrew to reside permanently in Jerusalem. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called on the government to repeal this law and resume processing family unification applications. The law allows the entry of spouses of Israelis on a “staying permit” if the male spouse is age 35 or older and the female spouse is age 25 or older, for children up to age 14, and a special permit to children ages 14 to 18, but they may not receive residency and have no path to citizenship. This law applies to Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Lebanese, including those who are Palestinian spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, unless the Ministry of the Interior makes a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds.

Israeli authorities froze family unification proceedings for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in 2000. On August 30, Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian general authority for civil affairs Hussein al-Sheikh announced that Israel had agreed to approve 5,000 family reunification requests filed by Palestinians. Both undocumented foreign nationals married to Palestinians and former residents of Gaza who during the year lived in the West Bank were eligible to apply to adjust their residency status under the agreement. In late December al-Sheikh announced that Israel would approve 9,500 additional requests: 6,000 from the West Bank and 3,500 from Gaza. In 2020 individuals from the occupied territories submitted 1,191 family unification applications, 340 of which were approved and 740 of which were pending, according to the Israeli government.

HaMoked stated in 2020 there were likely thousands of foreign spouses living in the West Bank with their Palestinian partners, and often children, with only temporary tourist visas, a living situation that became more complicated under COVID-19 with the frequent closures of Allenby Bridge. HaMoked stated that because these individuals used the Allenby Bridge to enter and depart the West Bank from Jordan, the bridge’s closure left them with the choice of either potentially overstaying their visa or attempting to travel through Ben Gurion Airport, which they are not permitted to do without special Israeli permission. HaMoked claimed the military’s prior refusal to review requests of foreign citizens for family unification was contrary to Israeli law and to Israeli-Palestinian interim Oslo Accords-era agreements. HaMoked stated the IDF rejected family unification requests based on a broad policy and not on the facts of the individual cases brought before it. As such, HaMoked stated, the practice did not appropriately balance relevant security needs and the right of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, whom HaMoked stated were protected persons under international humanitarian law, to family life.

Israeli authorities reportedly permitted children in Gaza access to a parent in the West Bank only if no other close relative was resident in Gaza.

Killings: During a conflict from May 10 to 21, Palestinian militants in Gaza launched 4,400 rockets and mortar shells toward Israel. According to the IDF, 680 of these rockets misfired and landed in Gaza, causing Palestinian casualties. The IDF launched 1,500 airstrikes against targets in Gaza during the conflict. According to the Israeli government, NGOs, and media, Gaza-based militants fired rockets from civilian locations toward civilian targets in Israel, including large salvos towards dense population centers. Israeli airstrikes destroyed 1,800 homes, including five residential towers. According to UNOCHA, during the May escalation, 261 Palestinians were killed, including 67 children. At least 241 of the fatalities were by Israeli forces, and the rest due to rockets falling short and other circumstances. An estimated 130 of all fatalities were civilians and 77 were members of armed groups, while the status of the remaining 54 fatalities was not determined. More than 2,200 Palestinians were injured, including 685 children and 480 women, some of whom may suffer a long-term disability requiring rehabilitation. In Israel, 13 persons, including two children, were killed and 710 others were injured. According to B’Tselem, 20 Palestinians, including seven minors, were killed by Palestinian rocket fire. A member of the Israeli security forces was killed by an antitank missile fired by a Palestinian organization. At the height of the fighting, 113,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) sought shelter and protection at the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools or with hosting families. According to the UN’s Shelter Cluster, which is responsible for tracking and assisting with provision of housing and shelter, there remained approximately 8,250 IDPs, primarily those whose houses were destroyed or severely damaged.

Human rights groups condemned Hamas’s and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s targeting of civilians as well as Israel’s targeting of civilian infrastructure. The Israeli government stated that Hamas and others were using this civilian infrastructure for cover, including offices within the buildings and tunnel infrastructure beneath them. A Hamas tunnel was found under an UNRWA school in Gaza, for example, and Hamas temporarily turned away bomb disposal experts brought in by the UN Mine Action Service and UNRWA to ensure the school was safe to open, delaying the work being undertaken to remove two deeply buried bombs that had struck the school during the airstrikes. The IDF also destroyed a building which contained the headquarters for several international media organizations, such as the Associated Press (AP) and al-Jazeera. The IDF stated that intelligence showed Hamas was also using the building and noted that it had warned building occupants to vacate the building, with the result that there were no casualties attributed to the strike. The AP and others continued to call for an investigation, and Israel did not make public the intelligence information that led to the strike. Prior to and following the May conflict, Gaza-based militants routinely launched rockets, released incendiary balloons, and organized protests at the Gaza fence, drawing airstrikes from the IDF. These activities killed three Palestinians and one Israeli border police officer since the May conflict.

Other Conflict-Related Abuse: Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights groups condemned the closure of Israeli-controlled crossings for pedestrians and goods in and out of Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict, with multiple human rights organizations describing the closures as a collective punishment of civilians living in Gaza. Following the escalation, Israeli closures included: limiting entry of goods into Gaza from Israel to basic humanitarian goods, such as food and medicine, in the months following the conflict; cutting fuel imports from Qatar into Gaza from Israel for five weeks following the conflict; reducing electricity in Gaza to six hours per day; preventing Gazans with permits, including workers and medical patients, from leaving Gaza during and in the seven weeks following the conflict; preventing humanitarian workers from accessing Gaza for five days following the end of the conflict; preventing the reconstruction of destroyed Gazan infrastructure, including electricity, water, and housing, for three months following the conflict by blocking the entry of construction materials including rebar, cement, and fiberglass into Gaza; and reducing the fishing zone for Gazan fishers from 15 to six miles in the month following the conflict. By October Israel lifted most of the newly imposed restrictions.

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