a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
Palestinian terrorist groups and unaffiliated individuals killed seven Israeli civilians and five Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in terrorist attacks in the West Bank, and more were injured, according to the Israeli NGO B’Tselem. In addition, the Israeli government reported that security forces foiled approximately 500 terrorist attacks during the year.
For example, on September 17, 17-year-old Palestinian Khalil Jabarin fatally stabbed Ari Fuld at a shopping mall in the West Bank, before being shot by Fuld and another civilian and arrested by police. An Israeli military court indicted Jabarin on October 22 for “intentionally causing death,” and he remained in custody pending trial at year’s end.
During the year Israeli forces killed Palestinians in the West Bank who were attempting or allegedly attempting to attack Israelis, according to B’Tselem and media reports. According to media reports and B’Tselem, some of those killed did not pose a lethal threat to the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) or civilians at the time they were killed.
For example, on December 4, IDF soldiers shot and killed Mohammad Khosam Khabali in the West Bank city of Tulkarm. After the incident, the IDF claimed they were reacting to a group of rock throwing Palestinians. B’Tselem compiled security camera videos showing Khabali walking away from the soldiers when he was killed.
On March 30, Palestinians in Gaza launched the “March of Return,” a series of weekly protests along the fence between Gaza and Israel. The protests, some of which drew tens of thousands of people, and included armed terrorists, militants who launched incendiary devices into Israel, and unarmed protesters, continued throughout the year. Hamas took control of the weekly protests, and many of the protests were violent. IDF shot and killed 190 Palestinians at the Gaza border as of the end of the year, including 41 minors, according to B’Tselem. According to the World Health organization, 6,239 Palestinians in Gaza were injured by IDF live fire in the protests. B’Tselem stated that 149 of the Palestinian protesters who were killed did not take part in hostilities. The government stated that many of the victims were operatives of Hamas or encouraged by Hamas to protest near the border. For example, following media reports that the IDF shot and killed 62 Palestinians at the Gaza fence on May 14, Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed at least 53 were affiliated with their organizations, including some who were active members. The IDF stated they opened an internal inquiry into each Palestinian death at the border. The Israeli Military Advocate General opened five criminal investigations into IDF actions at the Gaza border, as of the end of the year.
On June 1, IDF shot and killed Razan al-Najjar north of Khuza’ah in Gaza during a Friday protest near the security fence with Israel. Al-Najjar was identified as a medical provider, according to B’Tselem. On October 29, media reported that Israel’s Military Advocate General (MAG) rejected the findings of an IDF inquiry that concluded a soldier did not deliberately shoot her. According to a New York Timesreport, an IDF sniper fired one round of live ammunition into a crowd including 14 white-coated medics, including al-Najjar, when no protesters in the immediate vicinity were conducting violent acts. According to the government, the circumstances of al-Najjar’s death were under investigation by the Military Police.
Gaza-based militant groups periodically conducted small arms attacks into Israel during the protests. In addition, from March 30 to December 5, Palestinian militant groups launched more than 1,150 rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip indiscriminately toward civilian areas in Israel, as well as incendiary devices tied to kites and balloons that sparked nearly 2,000 fires and burned more than 5,600 acres of land in Israel, according to the government. More than 200 Israelis required treatment from these attacks, mostly for shock. Gaza-based militants shot and killed one Israeli soldier and a rocket launched by Gaza-based militant killed one Palestinian laborer in Ashkelon. On July 20, a Palestinian sniper shot and killed IDF Staff Sergeant Aviv Levi, an Israeli infantry soldier.
In August the Israeli military opened an investigation into the IDF shootings of two Palestinian minors in Gaza. According to an Israeli military statement, an initial probe suggested the soldiers who shot and killed 18-year-old Abed Nabi in March and 15-year-old Othman Hellis in July during Gaza border protests did not adhere to open-fire regulations.
Following multiple terrorist attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank in November and December, the IDF killed two Palestinian drivers and one minor passenger in three incidents in which IDF soldiers perceived attempts to ram vehicles into soldiers at checkpoints. According to B’Tselem, none of the three events were ramming attacks, and one of the adults and the minor passenger were shot in the back as their cars were driving away from checkpoints.
According to media reports, on October 28, an IDF drone strike killed three minors near the eastern Gaza perimeter fence. According to the IDF, the minors were planting an explosive device. The government stated it opened investigations into all deaths at the fence.
According to the government, Gaza-based militants, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, al-Mujahideen Movement, and other militant factions launched more than 1150 rockets and mortars toward Israel. These attacks killed a Palestinian laborer in Ashkelon and injured an IDF soldier. According to NGOs, media, and the Israeli government, Gaza-based militants fired rockets from civilian locations toward civilian targets.
In response to the rocket, mortar and incendiary attacks, and attempts to infiltrate Israel through the fence, the IDF launched 865 strikes against targets in Gaza during the year, according to the IDF. Air strikes and tank shellings killed 27 Palestinians at least seven of whom were civilians not participating in hostilities, according to B’Tselem. Seventeen of those killed in air strikes were militants, according to the Israeli government. According to B’Tselem, the IDF killed two minors in Gaza on July 14 in a “roof knocking,” a tactic in which a low-explosive projectile is dropped on the roof of a building to warn residents to vacate ahead of a full air strike. B’Tselem released a report on December 19 alleging the IDF withheld aerial footage of the event showing the teenage boys sitting on the edge of the roof. On August 9, the IDF struck more than 150 targets in the Gaza Strip in response to more than 180 rockets and mortars fired by Gaza-based militants into Israel. One of the IDF airstrikes killed one-year-old Bayan Abu Khamash and his pregnant mother, 22-year-old Inas Abu Kahmas, while they were asleep at home in Deir al-Balah, Gaza.
There were reports of Gazan fishermen killed by Israeli and Egyptian authorities. According to the NGO Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Israeli soldiers on a naval vessel shot and killed an 18-year-old Gazan fisherman, Isma’il Saleh Abu Riyalah in February. On November 8, Egyptian naval forces allegedly shot and killed Gazan Mostafa Abu Audeh while he was fishing just off the coast of the Palestinian city of Rafah. According to press, the Egyptian military denied the reports.
In Gaza, according to PCHR, Hamas extrajudicially executed seven persons during the year and has issued 125 death sentences since 2007. At year’s end, there were 10 persons in Hamas prisons awaiting capital punishment. PCHR noted a significant increase in application of the death penalty in Gaza since 2007 and particularly in the last three years. By law the PA president must ratify each death penalty sentence, but Hamas proceeded with these executions without the PA president’s approval.
On May 8, Israeli authorities released IDF soldier Elor Azaria from a military prison after nine months’ incarceration for killing incapacitated Palestinian attacker, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, in Hebron in 2016. A military court found Azaria guilty of manslaughter in January 2017. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot shortened Azaria’s sentence from 18 months to 14 months in September 2017. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin denied Azaria’s request for clemency in November 2017. The parole board approved releasing Azaria after completing two-thirds of his sentence, as is customary in Israel. According to media reports, Azaria’s punishment included demotion to the rank of private prior to his discharge from the IDF.
The sixth update of the MAG investigation into the 2014 Gaza war closed 88 more cases, bringing the total of alleged incidents closed without charges to 186 of 360. MAG previously brought charges against three soldiers for looting. The remaining investigations were ongoing or not mentioned. This update addressed the IDF application of the “Hannibal Directive,” which calls for overwhelming firepower when an enemy captures an IDF soldier to prevent use of the soldier as a hostage. A March State Comptroller report on the war criticized the Hannibal Directive–which the IDF replaced in 2017–for failing to mention distinction and proportionality, as well as for ambiguous wording that led to confusion about whether the IDF should risk killing its own soldier when attacking kidnappers to prevent a hostage situation. Human rights organizations criticized MAG for failing to find fault in hundreds of incidents that caused more than 1,000 Palestinian civilian deaths, and for focusing on actions by individual soldiers, who may have violated IDF rules or the law, rather than the conformity of IDF rules and policies with international law, including high-level orders regarding the use of force.
In the West Bank, there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities in 2018. There was no new information on the disappearances in 2014 and 2015 of three Israeli citizens, Avraham Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed, and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, who crossed into Gaza and whom Hamas reportedly apprehended and held incommunicado.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
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. According to an October Human Rights Watch (HRW) report based on 86 cases and dozens of interviews of former detainees, lawyers, and family members, torture occurred in detention centers in both Gaza and the West Bank by Hamas and PA security services. Based on 147 interviews with prisoners, HRW assessed abuse was systematic and routinely practiced in PA prisons, particularly in the PA’s Intelligence, Preventive Security, and Joint Security Committee detention facilities in Jericho. HRW reported tactics including forcing detainees to hold painful stress positions for long periods, beating, punching, and flogging. The spokesperson for PA’s security services, Adnan al-Dumairi, claimed the report was politically motivated and faulted HRW for not fact-checking it with the PA Ministry of Interior.
In September the Middle East Monitor reported that 28-year-old Ahmed Abu Hamada died in a PA jail. The PA reported that he died of natural causes. According to the Middle East Monitor, human rights groups alleged that he died due to torture in detention. Abu Hamada was reportedly a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and had been charged with “causing security chaos.”
Palestinian detainees held by Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) registered complaints of abuse and torture with the Palestinian Authority’s Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). The PA Corrections and Rehabilitation Centers Department (CRCD), under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, continued to maintain a mechanism for reviewing complaints of prisoner abuse in civil prisons but reported no cases of inmate abuse by its staff. HRW reported that despite hundreds of complaints having been filed, no disciplinary action was taken in the majority of the cases. The PA denied the use of torture. CRCD conducted yearly assessments of all seven civil prisons in the West Bank to review prison operations, including mechanisms of reporting allegations of abuse and subsequent investigation and disciplinary action.
The ICHR and HRW reported that Hamas internal security tortured detainees. For example, one detainee reported being whipped on his feet and chest with a cable. In letters to HRW, Hamas denied the allegations.
Human rights organizations such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) reported that “special interrogation methods” 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, and 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 was no investigation into these complaints.
NGO HaMoked alleged that Israeli detention practices 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 others acts of violence. Israeli officials stated they did not use these techniques.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Physical conditions in prisons and detention centers in the West Bank were reportedly poor. The PA does not publish data on detainee numbers. In responses to HRW in April, Preventive Security claimed it held 126 detainees and Intelligence Services claimed it held 61 detainees.
The basic conditions of Hamas-run prisons in Gaza were reportedly poor, prison cells were overcrowded, and there were many reports of abuses. There were an estimated 4,000 detainees in Gaza prisons with about 50 percent held in correctional facilities and 50 percent in temporary police detention, according to the United Nations. Approximately 100 detainees were held by Hamas’ Internal Security Agency. There were approximately 60 women and 60 minor detainees, each held in separate facilities.
Israeli authorities detained inside Israel 82 percent of Palestinian prisoners arrested by the ISF in the West Bank. According to the MCW, as of year’s end, these comprised 5,370 Palestinian detainees. According to Israel Prison Service figures obtained by MCW, the monthly average of minors in detention during the year was 283. As of year’s end, there were eight members of the PLC being held in Israeli prisons.
NGOs reported all prisons lacked adequate facilities and specialized medical care for detainees and prisoners with disabilities.
Physical Conditions: PA prisons continued to be crowded and lacked ventilation, heating, cooling, and lighting systems conforming to international standards. Authorities at times held male juveniles with adult male prisoners. Security services used separate detention facilities. Conditions for women were virtually identical to those for men. The PA used several refurbished structures and buildings as prisons, some of which lacked necessary security accommodations.
NGOs, including PCATI and MCW, stated that Israeli authorities appeared to use poor conditions or exposure to weather as an intimidation method.
Administration: According to HRW, mechanisms designed to hold employees and administrators accountable in both PA and Hamas detention facilities rarely, if ever, led to consequences for serious abuses. There were reports that prison administrators denied some detainees visits from family members.
Human rights groups such as the PCHR reported families of imprisoned Palestinians, particularly Gazans, had only limited ability to visit prisoners due to their detention inside Israel and the lack of entry permits to Israel for most Palestinians.
Independent Monitoring: In the West Bank, the PA permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to detainees to assess treatment and conditions. The ICRC continued its regular visits to detention facilities, including interrogation centers, in accordance with its standard modalities, as in previous years. Human rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and lawyers indicated that, as in previous years, there were some difficulties in gaining access to specific detainees held by the PA–depending on which PA security organization managed the facility.
In Gaza, Hamas granted ICRC access to detainees to assess treatment and conditions. The ICRC continued its regular visits to detention facilities, including interrogation centers, in accordance with its standard modalities, as in previous years. Human rights organizations conducted monitoring visits to some prisoners in Gaza, but Hamas authorities denied representatives permission to visit high-profile detainees and prisoners.
The Israeli government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. NGOs sent representatives to meet with Palestinian prisoners–including those on hunger strikes–and inspect conditions in Israeli prisons, detention centers, and some ISF facilities. Palestinian families and human rights groups reported delays and difficulties in gaining access to specific detainees from Israeli authorities. They also reported transfers of detainees without notice and claimed Israeli authorities at times used transfer practices punitively against prisoners engaging in hunger strikes.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
For information on treatment of Palestinians in Israeli prisons as well as prison conditions in Israel, see the Israel report. PA law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Nonetheless, the PA criminal justice system often did not provide a prompt and speedy trial. There were widespread instances of PA detention without charge or trial for selected security detainees in PASF custody. The PA also arrested without charge Palestinians who posted critical social media postings, journalists critical of the PA, and individuals from areas known to support PA President Abbas’ exiled Fatah rival Muhammad Dahlan, according to HRW.
In October the PA arrested in the West Bank a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem allegedly involved in the sale of an apartment in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to a Jew, for allegedly violating a law that prohibits “transferring positions to the enemy.” On December 31, a criminal court sentenced him to life in prison with hard labor.
Hamas practiced widespread arbitrary detention in Gaza, particularly of Fatah members, civil society activists, journalists, and those accused of publicly criticizing Hamas. For example, Hamas arrested dozens of Fatah members for their planned participation in a gathering to watch President Abbas’ UN General Assembly speech in September. Some detainees registered complaints with the PA’s ICHR that their arrests were arbitrary. Information concerning the whereabouts and welfare of those detained was not consistently or reliably available. Hamas did not respect fair trial guarantees or provide access to family and legal counsel to many of those detained.
Since taking control of the West Bank in 1967, Israel has prosecuted Palestinian residents of the West Bank under military law. Since 1967 the Israeli Knesset has extended Israeli criminal and civil law protections to the 412,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Under Israeli military law, the IPS may hold adults suspected of a security offense for four days prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions that allow the IPS to detain a suspect for up to eight days prior to bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. Israeli law defines security offenses to include any offense committed under circumstances that might raise a suspicion of harm to Israel’s security and which the ISF believes may link to terrorist activity. Suspects between the ages of 12 and 14 can be held up to one day, with a possible one-day extension. Those between the ages of 14 and 16 can be held up to two days, with a possible two-day extension. Those between the ages of 16 and 18 can be held up to four days, with a possible four-day extension.
Under military law, in security-related cases, Israeli authorities may hold adults for 20 days prior to an indictment, with the possibility of additional 15-day extensions up to 75 days. An Israeli military appeals court can then extend the detention up to 90 days at a time. Prior to an indictment in security-related cases, authorities may hold minors for 15 days, with the possibility of 10-day extensions up to 40 days. An Israeli military appeals court can then extend the detention up to 90 days at a time.
The Emergency Powers Law allows the Israeli Ministry of Defense to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely.
The Illegal Combatant Law permits Israeli authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to Israel’s Supreme Court.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
West Bank Palestinian population centers mostly fall into Area A, as defined by the Oslo-era agreements. In Area A, which contains 55 percent of the Palestinian population on approximately 18 percent of West Bank land, the PA has formal responsibility for security and civil control. Nevertheless, according to media reports, since 2002 Israeli security forces regularly conducted security operations in Area A, at times without coordinating with the PASF. During the year the IDF conducted incursions throughout Area A in the West Bank, citing security concerns. The PA has civil control, and the PA and Israel maintain joint security control of Area B territory in the West Bank, which contains 41 percent of the population on approximately 21 percent of the land. Israel retains full civil and security control of Area C, which comprises approximately 4 percent of the Palestinian population and 61 percent of the land of the West Bank, although the majority of land in Area C is vacant, and according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Israel has designated 30 percent of Area C as closed military zones. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 413,000 Israelis live in Area C Israeli settlements.
Six PA security forces operate in the West Bank. Several are under the PA Ministry of Interior’s operational control and follow the prime minister’s guidance. The Palestinian Civil Police have primary responsibility for civil and community policing. The National Security Force conducts gendarmerie-style security operations in circumstances that exceed the capabilities of the civil police. The Military Intelligence Agency handles intelligence and criminal matters involving PASF personnel, including accusations of abuse and corruption; it can refer cases to court. The General Intelligence Service is responsible for external intelligence gathering and operations. The Preventive Security Organization is responsible for internal intelligence gathering and investigations related to internal security cases (for example, antiterrorism, weapons violations, and money laundering). The Presidential Guard protects facilities and provides dignitary protection.
The PA maintained effective control over its security forces and has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Some Israeli officials claimed that PA authorities failed to prevent and, in fact, incited violence, including terrorist attacks, against Israelis.
The PA and the PLO continued to provide “martyr payments” to the families of Palestinian individuals killed during the commission of a terrorist act. The PA and the PLO also continued to provide payments to Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including those convicted of acts of terrorism against Israelis. These payments and separate stipends for prisoners were first initiated by the PLO in 1965 and continued under the PA since the Oslo Accords with Israel. President Abbas said he will use his last penny “on the families of the prisoners and martyrs.”
In Gaza, Hamas forces exercised de facto authority. Impunity remained a problem. Hamas at times instigated violence at the fence with Israel and failed to prevent or deter violence in numerous other instances.
Israeli authorities maintained a West Bank security presence through the ISF, the ISA, the Israel National Police (INP), and Border Guard. According to organizations such as Yesh Din, PCATI, and B’Tselem, Israeli authorities took some steps to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, but there were reports of failure to take disciplinary action in cases of abuse (see section 1.a.). The ISF stated it continued to open investigations automatically into claims of abuse of Palestinians in Israeli military police custody. Yesh Din claimed the automatic opening of investigations applied only to some Israeli military activity in the West Bank, but not to Palestinians reporting abuse in custody. Reports of abuse go to the Israeli Attorney General’s Office; PCATI reported Israeli authorities systematically disregarded abuse allegations.
NGOs such as Yesh Din and Rabbis for Human Rights also criticized Israeli efforts and accountability in investigating reports of Israeli security forces killing Palestinians. In 2016 the State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment on charges of reckless and negligent use of a firearm against two soldiers who shot and killed a 16-year-old in the village of Budrus who was reportedly trying to flee a restricted area. The State Attorney’s Office proposed (among other actions) that the soldiers pay damages to the families, but the soldiers’ attorney rejected the offer. In June MAG withdrew a pending indictment against the soldiers.
According to NGOs Yesh Din and Bimkom, and media reports, the ISF did not respond sufficiently to violence perpetrated against Palestinians by Israelis in the West Bank (see section 6.).
In January the Israel Central District Attorney’s Office indicted two Israeli suspects on charges connected with a 2015 “price tag” arson attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Douma, which killed a toddler and his parents, and severely injured his four-year-old brother. A perpetrator also spray-painted “Revenge!” and a Star of David on the wall of the home. Authorities charged one Israeli with murder and another with conspiring to commit a crime. In May relatives of the Palestinian family killed in the attack filed a lawsuit against the Israeli government seeking admission of responsibility and damages. In July a defendant who was a minor at the time of the attack was released to house arrest for the remainder of the hearings. The case was ongoing at year’s end.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
PA law generally requires a warrant for arrest and provides for prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention. There are exceptions that allow for PA arrest without a warrant. PA law allows police to hold detainees for 24 hours if there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect, and for up to 45 days with court approval. PA law requires that a trial start within six months, or authorities must release the detainee. PA authorities held some prisoners detained by order of Palestinian governors in lengthy pretrial detention, according to complaints received by the ICHR. Some PA security forces reportedly detained Palestinians outside appropriate legal procedures, including without warrants and without bringing them before judicial authorities within the required time. There were no known PA detentions extending beyond the six-month time limit without trial. PA authorities generally informed detainees of the charges against them, albeit sometimes not until interrogation. Bail and conditional release were available at the discretion of judicial authorities. PA authorities granted detainees access to a lawyer. PA courts consistently afforded the right to counsel to indigents charged with felony offenses. Indigent defendants charged with misdemeanors often did not receive counsel, although NGO efforts to represent indigent juveniles and adults in misdemeanor cases were at times successful. The Palestinian Bar Association (PBA) adopted a policy in May that restricted lawyers’ ability to represent indigents free of charge. An NGO challenged this policy in court, and in October the PBA rescinded it. Amnesty International reported that the PASF failed to provide prompt access to legal counsel to some detainees, effectively holding them incommunicado during interrogation.
The PA Military Intelligence Organization (PMI) operated without a service-specific mandate to investigate and arrest PA security force personnel and civilians suspected of “security offenses,” such as terrorism. The PMI conducted these activities in a manner consistent with the other PA security services. Hamas continued to charge that the PA detained individuals during the year solely due to their Hamas affiliation. The PA stated it charged many of these individuals with criminal offenses under PA civil or military codes.
In Gaza, Hamas detained a large number of persons during the year without recourse to legal counsel, judicial review, or bail. There also were instances in which de facto Hamas authorities retroactively issued arrest warrants and used military warrants to arrest Gaza residents.
Israeli military law applied to Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli civil law applied to Israelis living in the West Bank. Under Israeli military law, authorities can hold detainees for up to 60 days without access to a lawyer. Israeli authorities informed Palestinian detainees of the charges against them during detention, but did not always inform them of the reasons for arrest at the time of arrest, according to the MCW. Israeli authorities stated their policy was to post notification of arrests within 48 hours, but senior officers could delay notification for up to 12 days, effectively holding detainees incommunicado during the interrogation process. An Israeli military commander may request that a judge extend this period.
In accordance with law, Israeli authorities generally provided Palestinians held in Israeli military custody inside Israel access to a lawyer of their choice (and provided lawyers for the indigent). Nonetheless, Palestinian detainees often obtained lawyers only after initial interrogations, and according to interviews with 29 minors, HaMoked reported that 22 of them did not see a lawyer prior to their interrogations. Impediments to movement on West Bank roads or at Israeli-operated crossings often made legal consultation difficult and delayed trials and hearings. According to the MCW, many Palestinian detainees saw their lawyer for the first time when they appeared before an Israeli military court. Based on the circumstances of each case, such as the severity of the alleged offense, status as a minor, risk of escape, or other factors, authorities either granted or denied bail to Palestinians detained for security violations, but denied bail in most cases. Israeli authorities delayed or deprived some Palestinian detainees of visits by their families or lawyers.
NGOs such as MCW and HaMoked claimed Israeli authorities in the West Bank frequently failed to inform Palestinian parents why authorities detained their children or where they had been taken. Israeli authorities stated their policy was to provide written notification about the arrest to parents when they arrested a child at home; however, the NGOs argued this occurred only in 19 percent of cases. Legally, minors who are 16 and 17 years old can be held for 96 hours before seeing a judge, the same period applied to adults. The law mandates audiovisual recording of all interrogations of minors in the West Bank but limits this requirement to nonsecurity-related offenses. NGOs expressed concern that the ISF entered Palestinian homes at night to arrest or photograph minors. Israeli military authorities began providing translations into Arabic of some recent changes to military laws affecting Palestinian minors.
During the year there was a decrease in the detention rate of minors, compared with the high in 2015, which coincided with a spike in knife attacks, but the rate remained higher than earlier levels.
In December 2017 the ISF arrested 16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, who had a series of previous altercations with the IDF, and charged her with assault after she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier in the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh. NGOs criticized the nighttime arrest and charges, arguing that Tamimi did not pose a true threat. Tamimi remained in custody for nine months as a result of a plea agreement and sentencing. Her attorney alleged that Tamimi was interrogated by male interrogators without a female present and without an interrogator specialized in questioning minors. It was also alleged that one of the interrogators sexually harassed Tamimi and that threats were made to arrest her relatives if she remained silent during questioning. A formal complaint was filed in April and an IDF spokesperson stated that an investigation had been opened.
In June MCW reported that the majority of minor detainees reported ISF use of blindfolds, hand ties, physical abuse, and threats of violence. The MCW said data from more than 400 MCW detainee testimonials collected between 2013 and 2017 confirmed widespread physical mistreatment by Israeli authorities of Palestinian minor detainees in the West Bank. HaMoked interviewed minors and their families, who reported very similar circumstances of detention, including lack of notification to families of where authorities detained their children, lack of family visits, and coercive interrogation techniques.
According to NGOs, the ISA engaged in the practice of incommunicado detention of Palestinians, including isolation from outside monitors, legal counsel, and family throughout the duration of interrogation.
Arbitrary Arrest: The PA in the West Bank and Hamas de facto authorities in Gaza made arbitrary arrests based on political affiliation, according to ICHR and HRW. In many cases detainees were held without formal charges or proper procedures. There were numerous reports that the PA and Hamas improperly detained Palestinian journalists and arrested Palestinians who posted criticism of the PA (in the West Bank) or Hamas (in Gaza) online. Hamas also targeted those suspected of ties to Israel.
According to human rights NGOs, including the MCW, B’Tselem, and HaMoked, throughout the year there were reports Israeli security forces in the West Bank arbitrarily arrested and detained Palestinian protesters and activists, particularly those participating in demonstrations against the security barrier or against killings of Palestinians.
Pretrial Detention: It was unclear how many Palestinians were held in pretrial detention in West Bank prisons.
Hamas’ de facto Ministry of Interior told HRW that as of April there were more than 4,000 persons in custody, which includes both charged and pretrial detention. It was unclear how long detainees in Hamas custody stayed in pretrial detention.
As of the end of the year, according to the IPS, 467 persons were in administrative detention, including 432 Palestinian residents of the West Bank and four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Three people in administrative detention were minors. An Israeli military court must approve an administrative detention order. Palestinian detainees may appeal the ruling to the Israeli Military Appeals Court and the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ). The HCJ did not free any Palestinians under administrative detention during the year.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Palestinian detainees faced barriers to their ability to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention, and to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. Detainees held in PA custody faced delays in the enforcement of court rulings regarding their detention, especially regarding the PA’s obligation to release suspects who have met bail.
Hamas told HRW that between January 2016 and December 2017, Palestinians in Gaza lodged 314 complaints against the security services for “overstepping the law and mistreatment,” and 90 of them were proven true, according to Hamas’ internal investigations.
Palestinians held by Israeli military authorities in administrative detention have no right to trial and can only challenge their detention before a military court judge. In cases in which the evidence substantiating the charges against a detainee is classified, the detainee has no means of examining the evidence (nor, in some cases, to examine the charges) to challenge the detention.
Civil society organizations and some Israeli members of Knesset continued to criticize the Israeli government for using administrative detention excessively, adding that the practice was undemocratic since there was no due process. In its September 2017 submission regarding compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture, Israel claimed it issued administrative detention orders “as a preventive measure where there is a reasonable basis to believe that the detention is absolutely necessary for clear security purposes. Administrative detention is not employed where the security risk can be addressed by other legal alternatives, especially criminal prosecution.” The government further emphasized the role of military judges in reviewing administration detention orders.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The PA basic law provides for an independent judiciary. According to 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.
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 Gaza Hamas-appointed prosecutors and judges operated de facto courts, which the PA considered illegal. Gaza residents can file civil suits. HRW reported Hamas internal security regularly tried civil cases in military courts.
Israeli law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected Israeli civil courts’ independence and impartiality. The ISF tried Palestinian residents of the West Bank accused of security offenses in Israeli military courts.
PA law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right in the West Bank. Trials are public, except when the court determines PA security, foreign relations, a party’s or witness’ right to privacy, protection of a victim of a sexual offense, or an “honor crime” requires privacy. If a court orders a session closed, the decision may be appealed to a higher PA court. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to prompt and detailed information regarding the charges, with free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. Amnesty International reported that PA political and judicial authorities sometimes failed to adhere to basic due process rights, including promptly charging suspects. PA law provides for legal representation, at public expense if necessary, in felony cases during the trial phase. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner during the trial, although during the investigation phase, the defendant only has the right to observe. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Suspects and defendants in the PA justice system have a right to remain silent when interrogated by the prosecutor according to the law. Defendants also have a legal right to counsel during interrogation and trial. They have the right to appeal. PA authorities generally observed these rights.
Hamas authorities in Gaza followed the same criminal procedure law as the PA in the West Bank but implemented the procedures inconsistently.
Israeli authorities tried Israelis living in West Bank settlements under Israeli civil law in the nearest Israeli district court. Israeli military trials were provided for Palestinians in the West Bank. The same evidentiary rules used in Israeli criminal cases apply in both Israeli military and civilian proceedings; for example, Israeli authorities cannot base convictions solely on confessions. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but almost all detainees had counsel, in part because NGOs funded their representation. Israeli military courts use Hebrew, but Palestinian defendants have the right to simultaneous interpretation at every hearing. Various human rights organizations claimed the availability and quality of Arabic interpretation was insufficient; most interpreters were bilingual Israelis performing mandatory military service. Defendants can appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and petition Israel’s HCJ. According to NGO reports, Israeli military courts rarely acquitted Palestinians charged with security offenses, although they occasionally reduced sentences on appeal.
Human rights lawyers also argued that the structure of military trials–which take place in Israeli military facilities with Israeli military officers as judges, prosecutors, and court officials, and with tight security restrictions–limited Palestinian defendants’ rights to public trial and access to counsel. MCW reported that 65 percent of Palestinian minors were shown or made to sign documentation written in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian minors could not read, at the conclusion of their interrogation. Israeli authorities disputed these findings, asserting that interrogations of Palestinians took place only in Arabic and that authorities submitted no indictments based solely on a confession written in Hebrew.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
NGOs reported arrests of Palestinians on political grounds occurred in both the West Bank and Gaza. There was no reliable estimate of the number of political prisoners the PA held in the West Bank during the year. In an April letter to HRW, the PA denied it had made any arrests based solely on political or party affiliation.
In Gaza, Hamas detained dozens of Palestinians due to political affiliation, public criticism of Hamas, or suspected collaboration with Israel and held them for varying periods. Hamas alleged that they arrested Fatah members on criminal, rather than political charges. Observers associated numerous allegations of denial of due process with these detentions. The ICRC and NGOs had limited access to these prisoners.
Some human rights organizations claimed Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel were political prisoners. The Israeli government described security prisoners as those convicted or suspected of nationalistically motivated violence.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
A Palestinian resident of the West Bank can file suit against the PA, including on matters related to alleged abuses of human rights, but this was uncommon.
A Palestinian resident of Gaza can file suit against de facto Hamas authorities, including on matters related to alleged abuses of human rights, but this was also uncommon.
Palestinian residents of the West Bank can file suit against the government of Israel. In November an Israeli court ruled that residents of Gaza are not able to seek redress or compensation from the Israeli government for damage to property or bodily harm due to Gaza’s classification as an “enemy territory” under the Civil Wrongs (State Liability) Law.
The Israeli government conducted multiple demolitions of Palestinian property in the West Bank based on lack of permits, use of the property by the ISF, or as punishment. Human rights NGOs claimed that in the West Bank, Israeli authorities often placed insurmountable obstacles against Palestinian applicants for construction permits, including the requirement that they document land ownership despite the absence of a uniform post-1967 land registration process, the imposition of high application fees, and requirements to connect new housing to often-unavailable municipal works.
Israeli authorities, including the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) in the West Bank; part of Israel’s Ministry of Defense; and the Ministry of the Interior continued to demolish Palestinian homes, cisterns, and other buildings and property on the basis that these buildings lacked Israeli planning licenses. According to B’Tselem, from 2000 to 2016, Palestinians filed 5,475 applications for building permits in Area C of the West Bank. Of these requests, the ICA approved 226 applications, approximately 4 percent.
During the year Israeli authorities demolished 272 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, 98 percent of which lacked an Israeli building permit and displaced 220 Palestinians, according to data from UNOCHA. The Israeli authorities demolished 15 unpermitted Israeli homes in the Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood of the Elazar settlement in July that the owners had partially built on private Palestinian land. In February the government authorized a financial compensation plan for the affected Netiv Ha’avot residents to provide temporary lodging nearby in the Alon Shvut settlement and money to rebuild their homes elsewhere.
As of year’s end, the Palestinian Bedouin community Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank had not been demolished, although the Israeli government took administrative steps to do so during the year. Approximately 170 residents live in the community, in an area adjacent to a highway, with unpermitted, makeshift electrical and water connections. On May 24, after nearly 10 years of litigation, the HCJ ruled that the ICA’s demolition orders against the structures in Khan al-Ahmar were valid, which provided the ICA legal justification to demolish every structure in the village since all were built without ICA permits. Residents were not able to receive permits, as the Israeli government has not approved a master plan for the area. Following the ruling the HCJ issued a temporary injunction to delay the demolition pending a series of petitions from the PA and Khan al-Ahmar residents. On September 5, the HCJ convened a panel to judges to review these petitions. The panel ultimately rejected the petitions and upheld the HCJ’s May 24 decision, which terminated the temporary injunction beginning on September 12. In an effort to resolve the Khan al-Ahmar dispute, the government constructed an alternative site for the residents that included electric and water connections and a school building for the community’s children. Khan al-Ahmar residents rejected the transfer proposal, arguing that the site was unsuitable.
Israeli authorities sometimes charged demolition fees for demolishing a home; this at times prompted Palestinians to destroy their own homes to avoid the higher costs associated with Israeli demolition. Palestinians had difficulty verifying land ownership in Israeli courts, according to Israeli requirements for proof of land ownership. According to the government, all land ownership cases are assessed individually by an administrative committee, which is subject to judicial review, and decisions made according to the evidence provided.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The PA penal procedure code generally requires the PA Attorney General to issue warrants for entry 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. According to Amnesty International, during the interrogation of a 31-year-old woman in Jericho the police threatened to hurt her family and take away her children.
Hamas de facto authorities in Gaza frequently interfered arbitrarily with personal privacy, family, and home, according to reporting from local media and NGO sources. Hamas authorities searched homes and seized property without warrants. They targeted Palestinian 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 areas under PA security control by Oslo-era accords, according to media and PA officials. These raids often took place at night, which the ISF stated was due to operational necessity. Only ISF officers of lieutenant colonel rank and above can authorize entry into Palestinian private homes and institutions in the West Bank without a warrant, based upon military necessity.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli military forced Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley to temporarily vacate their homes 17 times to accommodate Israeli military training in the vicinity. In December the IDF forced 13 families, including 38 minors, to temporarily vacate their homes three separate times. A B’Tselem video from December 26 shows a convoy of Israeli military vehicles driving over crops as the IDF leads families away from their homes.
Israeli authorities froze family unification proceedings for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in 2000. HaMoked filed petitions to the High Court of Justice on November 1 on behalf of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and their foreign spouses, requesting that the Israeli government permit foreign spouses to legalize their status through a family unification procedure. HaMoked claimed the military’s refusal to review requests of foreign citizens for family unification is contrary to Israeli law, and to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Oslo-era agreements. HaMoked further claimed that the IDF rejects family unification requests based on a broad policy, and not on the facts of the individual cases brought before it, and as such does not appropriately balance relevant security needs and the right of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza–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. Israeli authorities did not permit Palestinians who were abroad during the 1967 War or whose residency permits the Israeli government subsequently withdrew to reside permanently in the West Bank or Gaza.
The ISF continued punitive demolitions of the homes of the families of Palestinians implicated in attacks against Israelis. As of December 21, Israeli authorities partially or fully demolished six family homes of Palestinians who had carried out attacks on Israelis. These actions often also rendered other dwellings near the demolished homes uninhabitable. Punitive demolitions displaced 45 Palestinians, including 13 children, according to the United Nations. NGOs such as Amnesty International, HRW, and several Palestinian and Israeli NGOs widely criticized punitive demolitions as collective punishment.
Demolition of the family home of Islam Abu Hmeid, located in the al-Ama’ari refugee camp in Ramallah occurred on December 15. Israeli authorities arrested Abu Hmeid in June for killing a soldier during a May raid into the camp. The Israeli government asserted such demolitions had a deterrent effect on would-be assailants.